Legislation regarding characterisation of mining waste

Finnish legislation on mine waste characterisation

Teemu Karlsson, Geological Survey of Finland, P.O. BOX 1237, FI-70211 Kuopio, FINLAND, e-mail: teemu.karlsson(at)gtk.fi


This article presents a short summary of the Finnish legislation concerning mine waste characterisation. The Finnish legislation on characterization is based on the European legislation that has been implemented to Finland, especially on Directive 2009/360/EC.

Characterisation of the mine waste according to the Finnish Government Decree on waste from extractive industries (190/2013) Annex 3 should include:

A. Waste characterisation

Determination of the properties of mine waste must be based on the following information:

  1. Background information
    • Description and objectives of the mining operation
    • Basic information about:
      • ​Prospecting, extraction, and processing activity
      • Type and description of method of extraction and process applied
      • Nature of the intended product
  2. ​Geological background of deposit to be exploited
    • ​Identification of the waste units to be exposed by extraction and processing by providing relevant information on:
      • ​Nature of surrounding rocks, their chemistry and mineralogy, including hydrothermal alteration of mineralised rocks and barren rocks
      • Nature of deposit, including mineralised rocks or rock-bearing mineralisation
      • Mineralisation typology, their chemistry and mineralogy, including physical properties such as density, porosity, particle size distribution, water content, covering worked minerals, gangue minerals, hydrothermal newly-formed minerals
      • Size and geometry of deposit
      • Weathering and supergene alteration from the chemical and mineralogical point of view.
  3. ​Waste type and its intended handling
    • ​Description of the nature of all the wastes occurring in each prospecting, extraction and processing operation, including overburden, waste rock and tailings, by providing information on the following elements:
      • ​Origin of the waste in the extraction site and the process generating that waste such as prospecting, extraction, milling, concentration
      • Quantity of the waste
      • Description of the waste transport system
      • Description of the chemical substances to be used during processing
      • Classification of the waste according to the list presented in the Government Decree 179/2012, including hazardous properties in accordance with the 3 § of the decree
      • Type of intended waste facility, final form of exposure of the waste and method of deposition of the waste into the facility.
  4. ​Geotechnical behaviour of waste
    • ​Identification of the suitable parameters for assessing the intrinsic physical characteristics of the waste taking into account the type of waste facility.
    • Relevant parameters to be considered are: granulometry, plasticity, density and water content, degree of compaction, shear strength and angle of friction, permeability and void ratio, compressibility and consolidation.
  5. ​Geochemical characteristics and behaviour of the waste
    • ​Specification of the chemical and mineralogical characteristics of the waste, and of any additives or residuals remaining in the waste.
    • Prediction of drainage chemistry over time for each type of waste, taking into account its intended handling, in particular:
      • ​Evaluation of metals, oxyanion and salt leachability over time by pH dependence leaching test, and/or percolation test and/or time-dependent release and/or other suitable testing.
      • For sulphide-containing waste, static or kinetic tests shall be carried out in order to determine acid-rock drainage and metal leaching over time.

B. Collecting and evaluation of information

  1. Existing investigations and studies, including existing permits, geological surveys, similar sites, lists of inert waste, appropriate certification schemes, European or national standards for similar material, which satisfy the technical requirements set out in the Part A shall be used.
  2. The quality and representativity of all information shall be evaluated and possible missing information shall be identified.
  3. Where information necessary for the characterisation of the waste is missing, a sampling plan shall be drawn up in accordance with standard EN 14899 and samples shall be taken in accordance with that sampling plan. Sampling plans shall be based on identified information as necessary, including:
    • ​Purpose of data collection
    • Testing programme and sampling requirements
    • Sampling situations, including sampling from drill-cores, excavation face, conveyor belt, heap, pond, or other relevant situation
    • Procedures and recommendations for sample numbers, size, mass, description and handling
    • The reliability and quality of the sampling results shall be evaluated.
  4. ​The results of the characterisation process shall be evaluated. Where necessary, additional information shall be collected following the same methodology.

Classification of mine waste as inert

According to the mine waste decree 190/2013 mine waste can be classified as inert if:

  • The waste does not dissolve, break up or change so that it can cause a danger or harm to environment or human health
  • Sulphidic sulphur concentration is in maximum 0.1% or sulphidic sulphur concentration is in maximum 1% and acid production – neutralization potential ratio > 3
  • Does not self-ignite or burn
  • Potentially harmful element concentrations are below threshold values of the ”PIMA-decree”, Vna 214/2007, or below natural background values. Especially As, Cd, Co, Cr, Cu, Hg, Mo, Ni, Pb, V and Zn
  • The waste does not contain harmful elements or chemicals used in processing, that could cause danger or harm to environment or human health, e.g. asbestos or processing chemicals

In accordance to the decree 379/2008 (now replaced by the 190/2013) a national list of inert rock types was determined (Luodes et al. 2011) to facilitate the classification of extractive industries waste. The Finnish national list includes 10 rock types, which are:

  • Anorthosite
  • Arkose
  • Felsic Gneiss
  • Granite
  • Granodiorite
  • Limestone
  • Quartzite
  • Syenitoides
  • Tonalite
  • Felsic Migmatite

The inert group rock types most likely do not contain such amounts of those harmful elements defined in the decree of extractive waste, that the concnetrations would exceed the threshold values, so they can be absolved of additional analyses. Nevertheless, they should be revised to verify the sulphide mineral content before they can be set as inert waste since anomalous trace of metal, arsenic or sulphur concentrations and acid production potential are usually related to sulphide minerals. Even then, the inert rock might not be environmentally inert if it contains other harmful substances like chemical remnants from processing e.g. explosives or enrichment chemicals.

If mine waste does not fulfill the general preconditions mentioned in the decree 190/2013, more detailed investigation is needed to predict the short and long term behaviour of the waste material.


EC 2009. COMMISSION DECISION of 30 April 2009 completing the technical requirements for waste characterisation laid down by Directive 2006/21/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council on the management of waste from extractive industries (2009/360/EC). http://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/?uri=CELEX:32009D0360

Finnish Government Decree 190/2013. Government Decree on Mining Wastes 14.3.2013. http://www.finlex.fi/fi/laki/alkup/2013/20130190

Finnish Government Decree 379/2008. Government Decree on Mining Wastes. 5.6.2008.

Finnish Government Decree 214/2007. Government Decree on the Assessment of Soil Contamination and Remediation Needs. 1.3.2007. http://www.finlex.fi/fi/laki/alkup/2007/20070214

Luodes, H., Kauppila, P., Karlsson, T., Nikkarinen, M., Aatos, S., Tornivaara, A., Wahlström, M. & Kaartinen, T. 2011. Kaivannaisjätteen luokittelu pysyväksi – Louhinnassa muodostuvat sivukivet (Classification of inert extractive waste – Waste rock left after quarrying). The Finnish Environment 21/2011.