Portugal’s mineral deposit exploitation is governed by Law nr. 54/2015, of June 22th, which applies to the discovery and exploitation of natural resources existent in the Earth’s crust.

Mineral deposits are all mineral occurrences with high economic interest due to their scarcity, high specific value or importance for the application in industrial processes. This refers to those deposits existent within national territory and offshore within the exclusive economic Zone.

In this category are included mineral substances used to obtain metals that contain (gold, silver, copper, etc.), radioactive substances, coal, talc, kaoline, diatomite, quartz, precious and semiprecious stones.

In a similar way, the sands, gravel, and other aggregates that occur on the seabed and or subsoil of the territorial sea and continental platform are classified as mineral deposits.

The licensing authority for research, exploration and exploitation of mineral deposits is the Directorate General of Energy and Geology (DGEG).

The use of mineral deposits is governed by Decree-Law no. 30/2021, of May 7th.

Exploration Plan
The exploration for and development of Mineral deposits requires that an applicant enter into a contract with the Portuguese State.

In the contract some items are established such as, area intended to be prospected; definition of the target minerals; deactivation plan phases; research and investment planning; value of the final fee; legal grounds for contract termination, etc.

The process begins with the presentation of the initial proposal, by the party interested in licensing the exploration and exploitation to the Ministry of Economy, Innovation and Development, handed through the Directorate-General for Energy and Geology (DGEG).

The proposal must include the definition of mineral substances to be sought, the intended area of exploration, a general work plan, a schedule of the proposed investment and the source of financing for the work to be completed. This procedure can be initiated by the applicant, or in response to a call for proposals from the Ministry of Economy, Innovation and Development, which can be public or by invitation only.

If the proposal as presented is approved, the DGEG will require that the applicant pay a provisional fee. After the payment of this fee, the Directorate General will publish the proposal in Official Journal of the Portuguese Republic. The applicant will be required to publish the application in the appropriate district capital newspaper and two large circulation newspaper in Lisbon and Porto, providing for a 30 day period for the presentation of duly justified objections.

After the conclusion of the contract between the Portuguese State and the applicant, the exploration work must begin and be performed in compliance with the approved work programme. This contract cannot exceed five years although, for exceptional cases, extensions to the initial period may be granted.

Exploitation Concession
An exploitation concession can be requested for an area already under a research and exploration contract, or for an available area under no contract or for a different mineral deposit in an area under a contract for research and exploration.

The licensing application for mineral deposit exploitation must include some major documents, such as, Location of the targeted area; Detailed report of the mineral deposit, Detailed report of the mineral deposit; Mining plan; Prefeasibility study of the exploitation.

If the project requires the production of an Environmental Impact Evaluation (EIE), the exploitation license will only be granted after the issuing of a favourable or conditionally favourable Environmental Impact Statement.

Mining Plan
The Mining Plan is considered to be the production plan. It must define the character of the mineral deposit, the production method, associated surface facilities, ore treatment and metallurgical processes, human resources, sewer and drainage system, lighting, ventilation and compressed air systems, energy, fuel and water supply systems. It must also detail those aspects related with safety, health and the environment. The information contained in the Mining Plan will vary, according to the type of the exploitation/production anticipated (open pit, underground or combined).

Landscape Rehabilitation Plan
Along with the Mining Plan, a Landscape Rehabilitation Plan must be presented, defining the measures to be implemented for landscape recovery of the affected area and proposals to minimize the environmental impacts generated by the exploitation.

Disposal Plan
Defines the waste management methodology, including production, valorisation, treatment, storage and final destination, aiming to minimize the negative environmental impacts and potential safety risks. Whenever the waste management is outside the area to be licensed for a mine, a separate licensing for a waste treatment facility must be required, in compliance with Decree–Law nr. 10/2010, of February 4th.

Health and Safety Plan
This plan includes risk analysis of the exploitation/producing facility, establishing the main safety measures be implemented to minimize accidents and dangerous situations. Also required are prevention plans to be adopted on signalling and circulation, collective and individual protection, emergency procedures and first aid measures. These must be in compliance with Decree-Law nr. 324/95, of November 29th. The plan should also describe the organization of the safety and health at work protection, and the social and hygiene facilities.

Prefeasibility Study
The Study must asses the economical feasibility of the project, taking into account the available resources, the estimated investment, fixed and variable costs, and projected incomes.