Mining law

Mining law is the branch of law relating to the legal requirements affecting minerals and mining. Mining law covers several basic topics, including the ownership of the mineral resource and who can work them. Mining is also affected by various regulations regarding the health and safety of miners, as well as the environmental impact of mining.



An aspect of property law that is central to mining law is the question of who "owns" the mineral, such that they may legally extract it from the earth. This is often dependent on the type of mineral in question, the mining history of the jurisdiction, as well as the general background legal tradition and its treatment of property.

For instance, in many jurisdictions, rights to mine gold and silver are retained by the sovereign, as the two metals traditionally served as currency in many a given society.


In addition to ownership of the mineral, the method of extraction may affect nearby property owners. Subsidence (be it dramatic or subtle) results when a mine (or similar area) collapses or drops, causing above or nearby structures to drop with it, often damaging or destroying them. The issue of support rights determines the legal rights and relationships between parties in these situations.

By country

Mining law varies both by the legal tradition of the jurisdiction, as well as the individual jurisdiction.

Mining law in German-speaking countries

Mining law in Europe originated from medieval common law. From at least the 12th century, German kings claimed mining rights to silver and other metals, taking precedence over the local lords. But by the late Middle Ages, mining rights, known as the Bergregal were transferred from the king to territorial rulers. Initially, mining rights were granted orally or in writing by individuals. From the early 15th century, mining law was enacted by territorial rulers in the form of decrees or regulations (mining regulations or Bergordnungen), which often remained in force until the 19th century. A new, far-reaching, legal basis was created with the General Mining Act for the Prussian States of 1865 (Allgemeines Berggesetz für die Preußischen Staaten von 1865), which, with local variations, was adopted in Brunswick (1867), Bavaria (1869), Württemberg (1874), Baden (1890) and other countries. With the exception of the Kingdom of Saxony, where a similarly important legal statute, the General Mining Act of the Kingdom of Saxony (Allgemeines Berggesetz für das Königreich Sachsen) came into force on 16 June 1868, it became law in all the larger states of Germany.


  • In Germany, under Article 74 (1) no. 11 of the Basic Law Basic Law, mining law is subject to concurrent legislation. The central legal standard is the Federal Mining Act (Bundesberggesetz).
  • In Austria the legal basis is quite similar to German law. The primary legislation since 1 January 1999 has been the Mineral Raw Material Act (Mineralrohstoffgesetz) or MinroG.
  • In Switzerland mining law is a cantonal business and governed by cantonal law.
  • Mining law in Liechtenstein is restricted to just a few minerals (metallic ores, fossil fuels and related materials like graphite, anthracite, stone coal, lignite, slate coal, asphalt, bitumen and mineral oils, sulphur, rock salt and salt springs) and governed mainly by the Liechtenstein Property Act, articles 484 to 497. As in Switzerland mining in Liechtenstein is no longer important and the regulations in the property act are largely only procedural regulations.

Mining law in English-speaking countries

Unlike German mining law, in Great Britain and the Commonwealth the principle of mining by landowners prevails. The crown only lays claim to gold and silver reserves. In exceptional cases (e.g. where land ownership is divided) mining rights may be given to a third party, whereby the landowners have to be compensated. The mining company pays the landowner a lease, dead rent or a royalty. The rights to above- and below-ground minerals (as a rule quarries and mines) may be awarded separately.

Mining law in the United States is also based on English common law. Here the landowner is likewise the owner of all raw materials to unlimited depth. However, the state retains rights over phosphate, nitrate, potassium salts, asphalt, coal, oil shale and sulphur, and a right of appropriation (not ownership) by the state for oil and gas. Sand and gravel come under the Department of the Interior.

Mining law in French-speaking countries

In France and Belgium the Code civil is the basis for mining law.

See also


  • Reinhart Piens, Hans-Wolfgang Schulte, Stephan Graf Vitzthum: Bundesberggesetz. (BBergG). Kommentar. Kohlhammer, Stuttgart, 1983, ISBN 3-17-007505-5.
  • Raimund Willecke: Die Deutsche Berggesetzgebung. Von den Anfängen bis zur Gegenwart. Glückauf, Essen, 1977, ISBN 3-7739-0210-7.
  • Eduard Kremer, Peter U. Neuhaus gen. Wever: Bergrecht. Kohlhammer, Stuttgart, u. a. 2001, ISBN 3-17-016287-X.
  • Julius Hesemann et al.: Untersuchung und Bewertung von Lagerstätten der Erze, nutzbarer Minerale und Gesteine (= Vademecum 1). Geologisches Landesamt Nordrhein-Westfalen, Krefeld, 1981, pp. 95–105: Abschnitt: Rechtsverhältnisse (Berggesetzgebung).

External links

Arizona State Mine Inspector

The Arizona State Mine Inspector is the inspector of active and inactive mines in the state of Arizona, in the United States. It is an independent, constitutionally mandated office, elected by the people of the state to a four-year term.

Arizona has 600 working mines and an estimated 120,000 abandoned mines. As of 2013, the state had only 4 employees who actually inspected mines. Arizona is the only state with an elected mine inspector in the country.Some have questioned whether Arizona should continue to elect its mine inspector.In 2006, former inspector Douglas K. Martin was convicted of a felony conflict of interest from the illegal use of state vehicles and theft.

Australian mining law

Australian mining law governs the exploration and extraction of minerals and petroleum in Australia. It differs substantially from the mining laws of other common law countries, the most important differences arising from the policy decision that the Crown should own all minerals.


The Bergregal (German: [ˈbɛʁk.ʁeˌɡaːl]) was the historic right of ownership of untapped mineral resources in parts of German-speaking Europe; ownership of the Bergregal meant entitlement to the rights and royalties from mining. Historically, it was one of those privileges that constituted the original sovereign rights of the king.In addition to the Bergregal, another important sovereign privilege was the Münzregal or "minting rights", which was a consequence of the Bergregal since coins were minted near the mines from which their metal was obtained.

General Mining Act of 1872

The General Mining Act of 1872 is a United States federal law that authorizes and governs prospecting and mining for economic minerals, such as gold, platinum, and silver, on federal public lands. This law, approved on May 10, 1872, codified the informal system of acquiring and protecting mining claims on public land, formed by prospectors in California and Nevada from the late 1840s through the 1860s, such as during the California Gold Rush.

All citizens of the United States of America 18 years or older have the right under the 1872 mining law to locate a lode (hard rock) or placer (gravel) mining claim on federal lands open to mineral entry. These claims may be located once a discovery of a locatable mineral is made. Locatable minerals include but are not limited to platinum, gold, silver, copper, lead, zinc, uranium and tungsten.

Guffey Coal Act

The Guffey-Snyder Act was a law, officially known as the Bituminous Coal Conservation Act of 1935, passed in the United States in 1935 under Franklin D. Roosevelt as part of his New Deal. It created the Bituminous Coal Commission to set the price of coal and end other unfair practices of competition. The law also created the Bituminous Coal Labor Board to regulate maximum work hours and minimum wage but was later ruled to be unconstitutional because by giving power to the federal government to control prices, it infringed upon the economic liberty of free enterprise.

It was replaced in 1937 with the Guffey-Vinson Coal Act, which the Supreme Court found constitutional. The act resurrected the Bituminous Coal Commission and reinstated the provisions regulation price fixing and unfair practices but removed the labor provisions of the previous act. In 1939, the Bituminous Coal Commission was abolished, and its duties were transferred to the US Department of the Interior.

Holden v. Hardy

Holden v. Hardy, 169 U.S. 366 (1898), is a US labor law case in which the Supreme Court of the United States held that a limitation on working time for miners and smelters was constitutional.

Mine Safety and Health Administration

The Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) () is an agency of the United States Department of Labor which administers the provisions of the Federal Mine Safety and Health Act of 1977 (Mine Act) to enforce compliance with mandatory safety and health standards as a means to eliminate fatal accidents, to reduce the frequency and severity of nonfatal accidents, to minimize health hazards, and to promote improved safety and health conditions in the nation's mines. MSHA carries out the mandates of the Mine Act at all mining and mineral processing operations in the United States, regardless of size, number of employees, commodity mined, or method of extraction. David Zatezalo is Assistant Secretary of Labor for Mine Safety and Health, and the head of MSHA.

MSHA is organized into several divisions. The Coal Mine Safety and Health division is divided into 12 districts covering coal mining in different portions of the United States. The Metal-Nonmetal Mine Safety and Health division covers six regions of the United States.

Mineral rights

Mineral rights are property rights to exploit an area for the minerals it harbors. Mineral rights can be separate from property ownership (see Split estate). Mineral rights can refer to sedentary minerals that do not move below the Earth's surface or fluid minerals such as oil or natural gas. There are three major types of mineral property; unified estate, severed or split estate, and fractional ownership of minerals.

Mines and Collieries Act 1842

Mines and Collieries Act 1842 (c. 99), commonly known as the Mines Act 1842, was an act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. It prohibited (banned) all girls and boys under ten years old from working underground in coal mines. It was a response to the working conditions of children revealed in the Children's Employment Commission (Mines) 1842 report. The Commission was headed by Lord Anthony Ashley-Cooper, 7th Earl of Shaftesbury.At the beginning of the 19th century methods of coal extraction were primitive and the workforce, men, women and children, laboured in dangerous conditions. In 1841 about 216,000 people were employed in the mines. Women and children worked underground for 11 or 12 hours a day for smaller wages than men. The public became aware of conditions in the country's collieries in 1838 after an accident at Huskar Colliery in Silkstone, near Barnsley. A stream overflowed into the ventilation drift after violent thunderstorms causing the death of 26 children; 11 girls aged from 8 to 16 and 15 boys between 9 and 12 years of age. The disaster came to the attention of Queen Victoria who ordered an inquiry.In 1840 Lord Ashley headed the royal commission of inquiry, which investigated the conditions of workers (especially children) in the coal mines. Commissioners visited collieries and mining communities gathering information sometimes against the mine owners' wishes. The report, illustrated by engraved illustrations and the personal accounts of mineworkers was published in May 1842. Victorian society was shocked to discover that children as young as five or six worked as trappers, opening and shutting ventilation doors down the mine, before becoming hurriers, pushing and pulling coal tubs and corfs. Lord Ashley deliberately appealed to Victorian prudery, focussing on girls and women wearing trousers and working bare-breasted in the presence of boys and men, which "made girls unsuitable for marriage and unfit to be mothers". Such an affront to Victorian morality ensured the bill was passed.

Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act

The Mines and Minerals (Regulation and Development) Act (1957) is an Act of the Parliament of India enacted to regulate the mining sector in India. It was amended in 2015 and 2016. This act forms the basic framework of mining regulation in India.This act is applicable to all mineral except coal, minor minerals and atomic minerals. It details the process and conditions for acquiring a mining or prospecting licence in India. Mining minor minerals comes under the purview of state governments. River sand is considered a minor mineral. For mining and prospecting in forest land, prior permission is needed from the Ministry of Environment and Forests.

Mines and Works Act

The Mines and Work Act was a piece of legislation in South Africa, originally passed in 1911 and amended in 1912 and 1926 before undergoing further changes in 1956 and 1959. This act legally established South Africa's employment "colour bar." and was enacted to establish the duties and responsibilities of workers in Mines and Works in South Africa.

Mining industry of Equatorial Guinea

The regulation of mining in Equatorial Guinea is handled by the Ministry of Mines, Industry, and Energy, which oversees activities in the mining and petroleum industries.Petroleum exploration and production is the core of Equatorial Guinea's economy, and accounts for over 90 percent of Equatorial Guinea's national income. As a result, little attention has been given to exploring and making use of the country's mineral resources; There is no commercial mining, although there are minor gold mining operations. The Equatoguinean government has conducted preliminary explorations that they believe show potential mining opportunities for diamonds and coltan., and the Ministry of Mines is now promoting the country's mining potential in hopes of attracting investorsHistorically, the peoples of Equatorial Guinea produced gold and iron before being colonized by Spain. During colonial rule, there were no commercial mining operations. Following independence in 1968, Soviet and French geologists found potential deposits of gold, bauxite, tin, tungsten, and coltan. Additional surveys conducted by GEMSA, a Spanish-Equatoguinean joint venture, and UMCEG (Ocean Energy, previously named United Meridian Corporation) performed airborne and land surveys, as well as the creation of GIS databases.The government claims ownership of all mineral resources, and regulates them under law 9/2006 (replacing the former Mining Law, 9/1981).

Office of Surface Mining

The Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSMRE) is a branch of the United States Department of the Interior. It is the federal agency entrusted with the implementation and enforcement of the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977 (SMCRA), which attached a per-ton fee to all extracted coal in order to fund an interest-accruing trust to be used for reclamation of abandoned mine lands, as well as established a set environmental standards that mines must follow while operating, and achieve when reclaiming mined land, in order to minimize environmental impact. OSMRE has about 500 employees, who work in either the national office in Washington, DC, or of the many regional and field offices(OSM's Three Regions).

OSM has three main functions:

Regulating active mines

Reclaiming lands damaged by surface mining and abandoned mines

Providing resources for technical assistance, training, and technology development [2]

Royalty trust

A royalty trust is a type of corporation, mostly in the United States or Canada, usually involved in oil and gas production or mining. However, unlike most corporations, its profits are not taxed at the corporate level provided a certain high percentage (e.g. 90%) of profits are distributed to shareholders as dividends. The dividends are then taxed as personal income. This system, similar to real estate investment trusts, effectively avoids the double taxation of corporate income.


The word stannary is historically applied to:

A tin mine, especially in Cornwall or Devon, South West England

A region containing tin works (mines and refineries, assay offices, etc.)

A chartered entity comprising such a region, its works, and its workers

The town constituting the administrative centre of such a region (a "stannary town")

Any of the courts or parliaments established to maintain the rights of such a charter (see Stannary Courts and Parliaments—often in the plural)

The Lord Warden of the Stannaries.The principal role of a stannary town was the collection of tin coinage, the proceeds of which were passed to the Duchy of Cornwall or the Crown. With the abolition of tin coinage in 1838 (following extensive petitioning by the Cornish tin industry for simplification of the taxation rules), the principal purpose for coinage town status ceased. However coinage towns still retained certain historic rights to appoint stannators to Cornwall's Stannary Parliament.

Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977

The Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977 (SMCRA) is the primary federal law that regulates the environmental effects of coal mining in the United States.

SMCRA created two programs: one for regulating active coal mines and a second for reclaiming abandoned mine lands. SMCRA also created the Office of Surface Mining, an agency within the Department of the Interior, to promulgate regulations, to fund state regulatory and reclamation efforts, and to ensure consistency among state regulatory programs.

Tin coinage

In Devon and Cornwall, tin coinage was a tax on refined tin, payable to the Duchy of Cornwall and administered in the Stannary Towns. The oldest surviving records of coinage show that it was collected in 1156. It was abolished by the Tin Duties Act 1838.

Title 30 of the United States Code

Title 30 of the United States Code outlines the role of mineral lands and mining in the United States Code.

30 U.S.C. ch. 1—United States Bureau of Mines

30 U.S.C. ch. 2—Mineral Lands and Regulations in General

30 U.S.C. ch. 3—Lands Containing Coal, Oil, Gas, Salts, Asphaltic Materials, Sodium, Sulphur, and Building Stone

30 U.S.C. ch. 3a—Leases and Prospecting Permits

30 U.S.C. ch. 4—Lease of Gold, Silver, or Quicksilver Deposits When Title Confirmed by Court of Private Land Claims

30 U.S.C. ch. 5—Lease of Oil and Gas Deposits in or under Railroads and Other Rights-of-Way

30 U.S.C. ch. 6—Synthetic Liquid Fuel Demonstration Plants

30 U.S.C. ch. 7—Lease Of Mineral Deposits Within Acquired Lands

30 U.S.C. ch. 8—Development of Lignite Coal Resources

30 U.S.C. ch. 9—Rare And Precious Metals Experiment Station

30 U.S.C. ch. 10—Coal Mine Safety

30 U.S.C. ch. 11—Mining Claims on Lands Subject To Mineral Leasing Laws

30 U.S.C. ch. 12—Multiple Mineral Development of the Same Tracts

30 U.S.C. ch. 12a—Entry and Location on Coal Lands on Discovery of Source Material

30 U.S.C. ch. 13—Control of Coal-Mine Fires

30 U.S.C. ch. 14—Anthracite Mine Drainage and Flood Control

30 U.S.C. ch. 15—Surface Resources

30 U.S.C. ch. 16—Mineral Development of Lands Withdrawn for Power Development

30 U.S.C. ch. 17—Exploration Program for Discovery of Minerals

30 U.S.C. ch. 18—Coal Research and Development

30 U.S.C. ch. 19—Lead and Zinc Stabilization Program

30 U.S.C. ch. 20—Conveyances to Occupants of Unpatented Mining Claims

30 U.S.C. ch. 21—Metal and Nonmetallic Mine Safety

30 U.S.C. ch. 22—Mine Safety and Health

30 U.S.C. ch. 23—Geothermal Steam and Associated Geothermal Resources

30 U.S.C. ch. 24—Geothermal Energy Research, Development, and Demonstration

30 U.S.C. ch. 25—Surface Mining Control and Reclamation

30 U.S.C. ch. 26—Deep Seabed Hard Mineral Resources

30 U.S.C. ch. 27—Geothermal Energy

30 U.S.C. ch. 28—Materials and Minerals Policy, Research, and Development

30 U.S.C. ch. 29—Oil and Gas Royalty Management

30 U.S.C. ch. 30—National Critical Materials Council

30 U.S.C. ch. 31—Marine Mineral Resources Research

30 U.S.C. ch. 32—Methane Hydrate Research and Development

United States Bureau of Mines

For most of the 20th century, the United States Bureau of Mines (USBM) was the primary United States government agency conducting scientific research and disseminating information on the extraction, processing, use, and conservation of mineral resources. The Bureau was abolished in 1996.


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