The European Union’s Environmental Impact Assessment Directive aims to ensure that projects that are likely to have a significant impact on the environment are identified and assessed, within an appraisal process, before these projects proceed to development.
This assessment includes a description of the project, including an estimate, by type and quantity, of expected residues and emissions (water, air and soil pollution, noise, vibration, light, heat, radiation, etc.) resulting from the operation of the proposed project.
Projects listed in the Annex 1 of the directive are assessed to have significant impacts on the environment and are thus required to undergo an environmental impact assessment. These include: pipelines with a diameter of more than 800 millimetres and a length of more than 40 kilometres, including pipelines that transport gas, oil, and chemicals; refineries; installations for the gasification and liquefaction of 500 tonnes or more of coal or bituminous shale per day; extraction of petroleum and natural gas for commercial purposes where the amount extracted exceeds 500 tonnes/day in the case of petroleum and 500 000 cubic metres/day in the case of gas.
Annex 2 outlines projects where an environmental impact assessment is optional. The list includes: surface storage of natural gas; underground storage of combustible gases; surface storage of fossil fuels; as well as oil and gas pipeline installations that are not within the parameters defined in Annex 1.
Under the EU’s Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Directive (2011/92/EU as amended by 2014/52/EU), mining companies need to conduct a biodiversity assessment when their projects fall under the categories specified in Annex I or Annex II of the Directive.
Further, mining companies will need to conduct a biodiversity assessment if their mining projects meet the criteria specified by the Member States. The EIA should identify, describe and assess the direct and indirect effects of the mining project on human beings, fauna, flora, soil, water, air, climate, landscape, material assets and cultural heritages, as specified in Article 3 of the Directive. The specific information to be provided by the mining company for the EIA is outlined in Article 5, including a description of the project, alternatives considered, effects on the environment and measures to prevent or mitigate adverse effects. The competent authorities and the public concerned should be involved in the consultation process, as outlined in Articles 6 and 7 of the Directive. Upon the approval or rejection of a project based on the EIA, the competent authorities are obligated to inform the public about the decision, including a description, if relevant, of the main measures to avoid, reduce and, if possible, offset the major adverse effects. Member States may have specific criteria or thresholds to determine when a biodiversity assessment is required for mining projects falling under Annex , and the mining company should comply with the national regulations and procedures established by the Member State where the project is located.