Government policy is to support the development of Ireland's mineral resources provided this is done in an environmentally and socially responsible way. This recognises the economic contribution that mineral extraction can make, especially through the provision of well-paid secure jobs in rural areas that often have relatively limited employment opportunities.
The Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources has statutory responsibility for regulation of the exploration for and development of all minerals, other than stone, clay, sand and gravel. The Minerals Development Acts, 1940 to 1999 are the principal legislative instruments which govern activity in this area. These Acts are to be consolidated in a new Minerals Development Act which will also update and modernise many of the provisions of the existing Acts. There are also a number of Regulations which have been made under the Acts. Click here to view the Acts and Regulations. Petroleum and natural gas are covered by separate legislation.
The Exploration and Mining Division (EMD) is responsible for the administration of regulatory aspects of Ireland’s minerals industry by means of a system of a Prospecting Licences, and Mining Leases and Licences.
EMD promotes responsible investment in mineral exploration in Ireland through provision of information on a specialist web-site, attendance at trade shows and by industry contacts.
At the EU level, the Commission has recently launched an initiative aimed at securing secure supplies of raw material for European industry, following on from a study on the competitiveness of the non-energy extractive industry. Sustainable Development Indices have been developed to give a picture of the industry's progress in this area. The Directive on the Management of Waste from the Extractive Industry sets minimum standards for the management of this important waste stream across the EU.