Last edited 21 Jun 2017

Permission for mining or working of minerals

Mineralsextraction.jpg

Mineral resources are natural concentrations of minerals or aggregates that, due to their inherent properties, are of potential economic value through mining and extraction. They are essential raw materials, upon which manufacturing, construction and agriculture rely.

In the UK, ‘minerals’ are defined in planning legislation as ‘all substances in, on or under land of a kind ordinarily worked for removal by underground or surface working, except that it does not include peat cut for purposes other than for sale.’

Schedules 5 and 9 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 establish a range of orders for mineral planning authorities to control minerals development.

The working of minerals can only take place if the operator has received both planning permission and any other relevant permits and approvals. These include permits from bodies such as the Environment Agency, licenses from Natural England, and so on.

There are a number of planning matters specific to the supply of minerals:

Firstly, minerals are only capable of being worked (i.e. extracted) in the place where they naturally occur in the sufficient quantity and of the desired quality, which means that there may be limited locations where economically viable and environmentally acceptable works can take place. This may impact on the permissions given to non-mineral development in areas where there are minerals, such as a defined mineral safeguarding area.

Permission often makes clear that the working of minerals is a temporary land use, albeit one that can take place over a long period of time. The fact that some minerals permissions can last for many years makes it necessary to carry out periodic reviews of the planning conditions attached to the relevant permission. This can help ensure that sites continue to operate in accordance with working and environmental standards.

Permissions are often given on the proviso that routine monitoring will take place, and permissions may stipulate that the land should be restored following working, to make it suitable for beneficial after-use. An example of this is the Eden Project in Cornwall, where a national educational and tourism resource was developed on the site of a former china clay pit.

In England, the key national planning policies for minerals are set out in the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), which aims to balance the sufficient supply of minerals with safeguarding against unacceptable adverse impacts.

In Wales, the land use planning policies for minerals are contained in the Planning Policy Wales, and supported by a series of Minerals Technical Advice Notes (MTANs).

In Scotland, mineral policies are contained in Scottish Planning Policy (SPP).

In Northern Ireland, policy and guidance is provided through the Strategic Planning Policy Statement for Northern Ireland (SPPS).

A Mineral Planning Authority (MPA) is a local authority with responsibility for mineral planning and for making permissions decisions. An MPA is the county council (in England, where there are two tiers of local government), the unitary authority, or a national park.

MPAs can plan for the steady and adequate supply of minerals by:

  • Designating specific sites where development is likely to be acceptable in terms of planning and where landowners are supportive.
  • Designating preferred areas where planning permission might reasonably be anticipated.
  • Designating areas of search where the availability of mineral resources may be less certain but where planning permission may still be granted.

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