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German Commodities Sector /

Who is responsible? Laws and the responsibilities of public authorities

The extraction of raw materials is regulated in Germany by the BBergG (German Federal Mining Act, hereinafter BBergG). In 1982, it replaced the old mining laws of the Federal States and the numerous ancillary mining laws of the Federal and state governments. The overall control of the mining law within the Federal Government is the responsibility of the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy. The mining authorities of the Federal States implement the BBergG and also bear the responsibility for the authorisation and supervision of mining activities (depending on the natural resources in question). The Federal States have passed some of their own mining regulations in order to meet the specific requirements and characteristics of their own regions.

Responsible public authorities
Ministry for the Environment,
Climate and Energy.
State Ministry for Economic Affairs
and Media, Energy and Technology
Senate Administration for Economic Affairs,
Technology and Research
Ministry for Economic
Affairs and Energy
Senator for Economic Affairs,
Labour and Ports
Department of Economic Affairs,
Transport and Innovation
Ministry for the Environment,
Climate Protection,
Agriculture and
Consumer Protection
Ministry for Energy, Infrastructure
and Regional Development
Lower Saxony
Ministry for Economic Affairs,
Labour and Transport
North-Rhine Westphalia
Ministry for Economic Affairs,
Innovation, and Energy
Ministry for Economic Affairs,
Climate Protection,
Energy and Regional Planning
Ministry for Economic Affairs,
Labour, Energy and Transport
Ministry for Economic Affairs,
Labour and Transport
Ministry for Sciences
and Economic Affairs
Ministry for Energy Transition,
the Environment and Rural Areas
Ministry for Agriculture, Forests,
the Environment and Nature

Legal regulation

Germany differentiates between three groups of natural resources in terms of their legal regulation:

  • Free-to-mine natural resources are not the property of the landowner. The exploration and extraction of these natural resources are subject to the BBergG (German Federal Mining Act) and must be approved by the mining authorities of the Federal States in a two-stage procedure: firstly, the granting of a mining license (public-law concession) and secondly, the site-specific approval of the operating plan procedure.
  • Privately-owned natural resources are the property of the landowner and are subject to mining law (see § 2(1), No. 1 BBergG). The prospecting and extraction of these mineral resources does not require any mining authorisation, but is subject to approval by the mining authorities of the Federal States.
  • Landowners’ natural resources are natural resources that are neither free-to-mine nor privately owned. They are the property of the landowner, but are not subject to mining law and the supervision of the mining authorities. The approval procedure for landowners’ natural resources is carried out in accordance with the regulations of the Federal Immission Control Act or in accordance with legal state regulations (e.g. excavation , water and construction laws).

Depending on the Federal state, the natural resource and the type of extraction involved, middle and lower-management levels of governmental bodies are responsible for the landowners’ natural resources category.

Legal division of natural resources in Germany

natural resources
Legal division Free-to-mine natural resources (subject to mining law) Free-to-mine natural resources Privately-owned natural resources
Subject-specific subdivision Energy resources: coals, hydrocarbons, geothermal energy

Industrial minerals: fluorite, graphite, lithium, phosphorus, all salts that are readily soluble in water, sulphur, barite, strontium, zirconium

Metal ores: e.g. iron, copper, lead, zinc ores, etc.

Also: all natural resources in the area of the continental shelf and coastal waters (including gravel and natural stones)
Right to mine: must be granted by the responsible mining authority Proof of ownership: of the land, e.g. land leasing contract must be submitted to the mining authority.
Right of disposal over natural resources These natural resources are ‘free’, viz., they do not belong to the landowner. Their exploitation requires mining rights and the permission of the mining authorities. Approval of the operating plan by the mining authority (approval of the main operating plans every two years)
An operation-relevant approval specifies the technical and legal environmental conditions under which natural resources can be explored and extracted.
Type of legal regulation Governed by the Federal Mining Act § 3, Abs. 3 § 3, Abs. 4 Supervision by the mining authorities of the Federal States
The extraction of free-to-mine and privately-owned natural resources is subject to supervision by the relevant mining authority (mining authorities; § 69(1) BBergG). In addition to awarding mining rights and granting operating plan approvals, the third core competence of the mining authorities is the supervision of mining operations. According to the Federal Mining Act, mine inspectors may enter the mines, demand information, visit facilities and carry out tests – and they may also impose requirements in individual cases. The mining entrepreneurs also have obligations, e.g. to report incidents and accidents, to accept the actions of the mining inspection authorities and to accompany the mine inspectors on tours of the mines and mine buildings (inspections).
Own presentation. Partial source: State Geological Service of the Federal Republic of Germany, Securing of Raw Materials 2008