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Management of waste from extractive industries

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Management of waste from extractive industries

The European Union has introduced measures to prevent or minimise any adverse effects on the environment and resultant risks to health resulting from the management of waste from the extractive industries, such as tailings and displaced material.


Directive 2006/21/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 15 March 2006 on the management of waste from extractive industries [See amending acts].


This Directive applies to waste resulting from the extraction, treatment and storage of mineral resources and the working of quarries. Waste covered by this Directive no longer falls within the scope of Directive 1999/31/EC on the landfill of waste.

This particular extractive waste must be managed in specialised facilities in compliance with specific rules. In accordance with Directive 2004/35/EC, operators of such facilities are subject to liability in respect of environmental damage caused by their operation. Member States shall take every precaution to limit risks to public health and the environment related to the operation of extractive waste processing facilities, inter alia by applying the concept of “best available techniques”.

Extractive industry waste facilities

No extractive industry waste facility may operate without a permit issued by the competent authorities. In order to obtain this type of authorisation, the operator of the facility must comply with the provisions of this Directive.

The competent authorities must inform the public of applications for permits that are submitted. This provision enables the public to submit comments and to participate in the assessment procedure for authorisation requests.

When a new waste facility is built or an existing one modified, the competent authority must ensure that the following measures are taken:

  • the facility must be suitably located;
  • its physical stability must be ensured and soil, air and water pollution prevented;
  • it must be monitored and inspected by competent persons;
  • arrangements must be made for the closure of the facility, the rehabilitation of the land and the after-closure phase.

Operators of waste facilities presenting a potential risk for public health or for the environment (Category A) must draw up:

  • a policy for preventing major accidents;
  • a safety management system;
  • an internal emergency plan specifying the measures to be taken on-site in the event of an accident.

For facilities in Category A, the competent authority must also draw up an external emergency plan specifying the measures to be taken off-site in the event of an accident. These two types of emergency plan (produced by the operator and the competent authority) are intended to reduce the potential impact of major accidents on health and the environment and ensure the restoration of the environment following such an accident. They must provide for participation by the public and for account to be taken of the opinions submitted.

Waste facility operators must provide a financial guarantee before the beginning of operations so as to ensure that the Directive’s obligations are covered and to ensure the existence and availability of funds to restore the site when the facility is closed.

A waste facility is regarded as finally closed when the competent authority has carried out a final inspection, assessed the reports submitted by the operator, confirmed that the site has been restored and given its approval. After closure, the operator must maintain and monitor the site for as long as the competent authority considers necessary. The costs of these measures are, in principle, borne by the operator.

Management measures for extractive industry waste

Member States must ensure that waste facility operators draw up a waste management plan, to be reviewed every five years. The objectives of the plan must be as follows:

  • to prevent or reduce the generation of waste and/or its harmful nature;
  • to encourage waste recovery through recycling, re-use or reclaiming.
  • to encourage the short and long-term safe disposal of waste.

The plan must include at least the following:

  • a description of the waste and its characterisation (chemical, physical, geological, etc.), a description of the substances used to process the mineral resources, methods used to transport and process the waste;
  • the control and monitoring procedures;
  • where applicable, the classification of the waste facility (Category A);
  • planned measures for the closure of the facility and after-closure monitoring;
  • measures for the prevention of water and soil pollution.

The competent authority must satisfy itself that waste facility operators have taken the measures necessary to prevent water and soil contamination, in particular by:

  • evaluating leachate generation (leachate means any liquid percolating through the deposited waste, including polluted drainage);
  • preventing leachate generation and preventing surface water or groundwater from being contaminated by the waste;
  • treating contaminated water and leachate in order to ensure their discharge.

The Directive also introduces specific measures aimed at limiting cyanide concentrations in tailings ponds and waste waters when cyanide is used to extract minerals.

Inspections, records and reports

The competent authority must inspect waste facilities at regular intervals, including after their closure. Operators are required to keep up-to-date records of all waste management operations and to make them available for inspection by the competent authority.

Every three years, Member States must send the European Commission a report on the implementation of the Directive. The Commission must publish a report within nine months of receiving the information from the Member States.

Member States must ensure that an inventory of closed waste facilities, including abandoned waste facilities, located on their territory which cause serious negative environmental impacts or have the potential of becoming in the medium or short term a serious threat to human health or the environment is drawn up and periodically updated.



Entry into force

Deadline for transposition in the Member States

Official Journal

Directive 2006/21/EC



OJ L 102 of 11.4.2006

Amending Act(s)

Entry into force

Deadline for transposition in the Member States

Official Journal

Regulation (EC) No 596/2009



OJ L 188 of 18.7.2009

The successive amendments and corrections to Directive 2006/21/EC have been incorporated into the basic text.


Implementing measures

Decision 2009/360/EC [Official Journal L 110 of 1.5.2009]. This Commission Decision completes the technical requirements for waste characterisation laid down in Annex II of Directive 2006/21/EC.

Decision 2009/359/EC [Official Journal L 110 of 1.5.2009]. This Decision completes the definition of the term inert waste appearing in Directive 2006/21/EC.

Decision 2009/358/EC [Official Journal L 110 of 1.5.2009]. This Decision defines minimum requirements to guarantee the harmonised collection and transmission of the information referred to in Directive 2006/21/EC. It also establishes a basis for the questionnaire provided for in the said Directive.

Decision 2009/337/EC [Official Journal L 102 of 22.4.2009]. This Decision defines criteria for the classification of waste facilities in accordance with Annex III of Directive 2006/21/EC.

Decision 2009/335/EC [Official Journal L 101 of 21.4.2009]. This Commission Decision defines the items to be taken into account when calculating the financial guarantee laid down in Directive 2006/21/EC.

Storage of carbon dioxide

Directive 2009/31/EC [Official Journal L 140 of 5.6.2009]. This Directive establishes a legal framework for the environmentally safe geological storage of carbon dioxide (CO2) in order to contribute to the fight against climate change. The aim of the environmentally safe geological storage of CO2 is the permanent containment of CO2 in order to prevent, and where this is not possible, eliminate as far as possible negative effects and any risk to the environment and human health.

Last updated: 16.12.2009