The Mining industry of UAE is substantially confined to the exploration of rocks and sand for manufacturing building rocks and cement for construction purposes. The mining sector in the United Arab Emirates has turned out to be a leader amongst the most promising production sectors (oil field), with full potential to reign in investors from around the globe for its long list of minerals ranging from copper mines and gypsum, to the extraction of metals and valuable stones.
Major minerals and mining zones
The Emirate of Fujairah is filled with minerals. Organisations around the world have effectively invested in the mining sector for exploration and exploitation of chrome and precious metals. Gold and diamonds account for the second largest revenue source for UAE in Dubai Multi Commodity Centre (DMCC). Additionally, mining for aluminium has tremendously increased the inland consumption.
UAE federal mining law regulating exploitation and exploration of minerals is still in the planning phase. However, free zones have their laws and regulations for the mining industry; DMCC has framed rules for risk-based due diligence in the gold and precious metals supply chain. The ownership and rights over the minerals lie with the respective emirates wherein it is located, as per the UAE Federal constitution. The Ministry of Energy and Petroleum is responsible for the sustainable development of these resources, and assigns licensed rights of exploitation to third parties (Concessionaire) vide concession agreements. The Concessionaire pays a license fee and royalty on the net sale of minerals to the State as compensation for mining its resources.
Environment Protection and FEA
The UAE Federal Law No. 24 of 1999 concerning the Protection and Development of the Environment (the Environment Law) is the primary legislation providing for protection and conservation of the environment to maintain its quality and natural balance. The law does not explicitly mention any provision with respect to mining; however, it gives the power to the Federal Environment Agency (FEA) to overlook all the activities which, directly or indirectly, cause damage to the environment and its resources.
The relevant mining laws found in the UAE are still in the planning phase, so until this is complete the business of mining is regulated by the Federal Environment Agency (FEA). The FEA takes on the responsibility of considering the concept of sustainable development, while structuring urban development policies. The Arabian Gulf ecosystem is diminishing rapidly due to the fact that 67% of the world’s oil reserve is found in the Gulf, and it affects the environment of that region. Oil-related activities have negative effects that cause significant harm to the ecosystem. Ultimately, to protect the environment and for sustainable development, two separate governmental entities have been set up to control environmental related activities, namely the Federal Environmental Agency and the UAE Ministry of Environment and Water. The mining and quarrying activities are governed by the following federal laws in the UAE:
- Federal Environment Law
- Federal Cabinet Resolution Number 20 of 2008
- Federal Ministerial Resolution Number 492 of 2008
- Federal Ministerial Resolution Number 110 of 2010
To engage in mining activities in the UAE, one must acquire an environmental permit from the governing local authority. Article 5 of the Federal Law number 13 of 2011 regulates the activities of mining projects carried out by corporations or companies where the distribution of a permit is by the Development of Economics Department (DED). The validity of a business permit is one year which is renewable at the request of the business entity; the extension of the business permit may be extended to a period of more than one year, and up to but not exceeding four years. A business entity must renew the permit within the last month before its expiry.
General OHS Laws in UAE
The UAE Federal Law Number 8 of 1980 concerning the Labour Regulations (Labour Law) dominantly addresses the Operational Safety and Health (OSH) aspects concerning various sectors including Mining. The Regulations define a worker as any person who works for an employer and under his management or control for remuneration for services rendered, which includes employees as well as officers.
The law is not applicable to the following categories (Article 3):
- Federal government employees or employees of government departments
- Army, security, and police personnel
- Domestic/home servants
- Self employed persons
- Workers of agriculture farms; however, it is applicable for those workers whose employment is in the business of processing of agricultural products with mechanical equipment
As worker safety is of the utmost importance, the law imposes strict liability on the employer if any employment accident or injury is caused to the worker during the course of employment or service. This includes any accident sustained by the employee on his way to or from his place of work; such injury shall be deemed an employment injury provided that the trip to or from the place of work is taken directly without default, delay or diversion from the regular route.
“since mining laws within the UAE are still in the planning stage; mining activities, until the new mining laws are completed, are regulated by the Federal Environment Agency (FEA)”
Additionally, Chapter V of the law entrusts the employers with duties which must be strictly complied with to ensure safety, health, protection, and social care of the workers. These are as follows:
- Ensure the health and safety of employees and take all measures as outlined by the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs from time to time.
- Display detailed safety instructions in conspicuous places to prevent and safeguard against fire or other occupational hazards.
- Provide first-aid boxes with medicines in conspicuous places. The supervision of these kits should be by a person skilled in administering the medication to the injured workers.
- Adhere to the prescribed norms of the Ministry to ensure proper safety, lighting, ventilation, dining rooms, the supply of water for drinking and washing purposes, elimination of dust and smoke pollutants, and take the prescribed and necessary precautions against fire and electricity hazards.
- Provide government standard medical care facilities, with experienced and skilled medical practitioners to address emergency situations and provide periodic health check-ups to the workers.
- Prohibit consumption or carriage of alcohol or any intoxicating substances into the workplace and ensure complete sobriety of the workers during working hours.
Mining specific laws
There are very few laws specific to any of the Emirates regarding mining in the United Arab Emirates; the Federal Laws govern all mining and quarrying activities in the region as a whole. These regulations include:
- Federal Environment Law
- Federal Cabinet Resolution Number 20 of 2008 (Quarries and Crushers Regulations)
- Federal Ministerial Resolution Number 492 of 2008 (Quarries and Crushers Environmental Guidelines)
- Federal Ministerial Resolution Number 110 of 2010 (Quarries and Crushers Regulations)
When a company or corporation within the UAE desires to carry out mining activities within the region, such an entity must obtain an environmental permit from the required local authority. Concerning this permit, there are certain guidelines to which these corporations or companies must adhere. In addition to the rules, the regulation also provides for the application of penalties in the event of any breach.
Article 15 of Federal Cabinet Resolution Number 20 of 2008
Emphasizes on the imposition of penalties on those who are damaging the environment. Individuals and entities damaging the environment should compensate and pay all the relevant damages for their actions.
Article 16 of Federal Cabinet Resolution Number 20 of 2008
This article places emphasis on the causes that lead to damage and the circumstances that lead to the same as per Article 15 as mentioned above.
Federal Ministerial Resolution Number 110 of 2010
This article emphasises the rehabilitation and the process of restoration. This article mandates that the act of restoration should take place within a reasonable time frame post the extraction of quarry resources. it states that following the removal of one area of pit, the rehabilitation should take place in the area where the quarry reserves are exhausted or stopped. It also points out the following benefits of implementing such methods of construction:
- It helps in the reduction of open spaces within pits
- It reduces soil erosion
- It reduces waste material/ double handling Ministerial
Ministerial Order 110 of 2010
Article 3 of the Ministerial Order 110 of 2010 lays down guidelines for drilling, material handling, and hauling in site. Article 5 of the Order gives guidelines on the general requirements. This provision states that all the mining operators should submit their data to the local authorities as well as the concerned water department. In addition to the abovementioned, detailed maps of the crushing area must be submitted by the operator which should show:
- The location of the area
- The position of crushing plants
- 3D contour maps
- Place for ancillary or additional developments
- Material storage yards
- In site roads and dwellings
- The residential areas
Environmental control and monitoring
Article 6 of the Order provides that all mines/quarries will install at least one stationary air quality monitor for PM10 and TSP measurements. Such data is to be presented to the competent local authority and the technical division of the Ministry of Environment and Water every three months. The authorities will also inspect the monitoring equipment from time to time. All mine/quarry operators should obtain environmental compliance certification (ECC) from the technical division of the Ministry of Environment and Water. This certification will be mandatory for renewal of all permits and licenses issued by the local and federal competent authorities. The relevant authorities will carry out site inspections before releasing the ECC, and renewal of such certification must be annual.
HSE management system
Article 9 of the order emphasizes the fact that the site should be well planned with safety measures and measures for environmental management system. This is extremely crucial for meeting the current as well as future requirements and challenges pertaining to the environment.
Article 14 states the following guidelines with regards to safety:
- There should be safety standards that shall be followed by all mines as per the Ministry of Interior and local authorities
- There should be a local tanker stationed at the site at all times, with high pressure to deal with fire hazards or fire due to accident
- All staff members should be trained to follow safety measures
“the UAE is well known for its natural resources and mining activities, hence it is imperative to keep the workers safe and provide a protective environment”
Other ministerial mining laws
The UAE ministry has passed several ministerial resolutions with regard to the health and safety of workers in hazardous areas as follows:
- The Ministerial Resolution, Number 4/1 for 1981 on defining works that are hazardous, states that workers should not be made to work for more than seven hours if they are working in mines or hazardous industries
- Minors under the age of 17 are strictly prohibited from working in mines or other hazardous industries
- The employment of women to work in mines or other such hazardous industries is restricted
- The employer should provide proper medical facilities to the employees working in the said industries
- The employer should provide the employees with the required precautionary and safety measures while making them work in the hazardous industry
Mining activities in the United Arab Emirates are regulated and governed by the Federal Environmental Agency (FEA), since the mining laws in the UAE are still being drafted. The UAE is well known for its natural resources such as crude oil, gas, petroleum and mining activities, hence it is imperative to keep the workers safe and provide a protective environment. The UAE has not yet formulated a federal mining law, but in place are the labour law and ministerial resolutions, which govern the OSH aspects of the mining industry.