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Exploitation or exploration of the continental shelf

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1. Defining the activity

a. Definition

Any private person can carry out an activity of exploitation or exploration of the continental shelf. The latter includes the seabed and their subsoil and extends beyond the territorial sea.

To go further Article 14 of Ordinance No. 2016-1687 of 8 December 2016 relating to maritime areas under the sovereignty or jurisdiction of the French Republic.

b. competent CFE

The relevant CFE depends on the nature of the structure in which the activity is carried out:

  • for commercial companies, it is the Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCI);
  • for civil societies, this is the registry of the Commercial Court;
  • for civil societies in the departments of the Lower Rhine, Upper Rhine and Moselle, this is the registry of the district court.

Good to know

The activity is considered commercial as long as the company has more than ten employees (except in the Lower Rhine, Upper Rhine and Moselle where the activity remains artisanal regardless of the number of employees of the company provided that it does not use an industrial process). On the other hand, if the company has ten or fewer employees, its activity is considered artisanal. Finally, if the professional has a buying and resale activity, his activity is both artisanal and commercial.

Two degrees. Installation conditions

a. Professional qualifications

The exploration or exploitation of the continental shelf is only possible for individuals who own an establishment in France or in a Member State of the European Union (EU) or party to the European Economic Area (EEA).

To go further ( Article 1 of Decree 71-360 of 6 May 1971 enforcing Act 68-1181 of 30 December 1968 relating to the exploration of the continental shelf and the exploitation of its natural resources.

b. Some peculiarities of the regulation of the activity

If necessary, prepare an annual report for the holder of a concession

As long as the person is the holder of a concession through which he can exploit and explore the continental shelf, he will have to submit an annual report detailing the technical and economic conditions of the operation, the execution of the work and results.

To go further Articles 47 to 49 of Decree No. 2006-798 of July 6, 2006 relating to the exploration, research and exploitation of mineral or fossil substances contained in the seabed of the public domain and the metropolitan continental shelf.

Make a search statement

When the operator undertakes excavation, surveys or underground works, he or she must make a prior declaration to the Chief Mining Engineer.

It should be addressed at the latest:

  • 15 days before the start of work for the works not to exceed 50 meters deep;
  • 60 days before the start of work for structures to exceed 50 meters deep.

To go further Article L. 411-1 of the Mining Code.

Make a pre-report of work schedule

The holder of a mining title must make a prior declaration to the prefect at least forty-five days before the start of the work program. In case of risks that could harm the environment, the prefect may prohibit the work by notifying the applicant.

The silence kept within forty-five days of the presentation of the program is worth accepting the application.

To go further Articles 7 to 9, and 32 of Decree 71-360 of May 6, 1971, enforcing Act 68-1181 of December 30, 1968, relating to the exploration of the continental shelf and the exploitation of its natural resources.

Three degrees. Installation procedures and formalities

a. Company reporting formalities

Depending on the nature of the business, the contractor must register with the Register of Trade and Companies (RCS). It is advisable to refer to the "Commercial Company Reporting Formalities" and "Registration of a Commercial Individual Company at the RCS" for more information.

b. Post-installation authorisation

Anyone wishing to move to exploit or explore the continental shelf must apply for an authorization that will depend on the nature of the substances being exploited.

This authorization will be submitted for notification to the National Centre for ocean development, which will have one month to review the application.

Authorization for pre-exploration

Prior exploration authorization gives the holder the right to search and survey the seabed beyond 300 metres from the seabed for two years.

What to know

The holder of the authorization will not be able to dispose of the products he has recovered through his research.

He will have to send an eight-copy file to the Minister for Mines, along with the following documents:

  • The request, including the length of the requested authorisation, the limited search space and the programme of the work envisaged;
  • any documents establishing its technical and financial capabilities;
  • a French water map overlooking the requested perimeter of information to make the most of the possibilities of carrying out the planned work;
  • A summary submission of the application
  • when the application is made by a legal person, if any, a certified copy of the statutes, an expedition of the company's act of incorporation and the justification of the powers of the person who made the application.

Upon receipt of the application, the Minister will appoint a prefect to review the file and issue a notice with a report by a chief mining engineer.

The Minister's silence within one year of receiving the application will be worth the decision to dismiss.

To go further Articles L. 123-13 to L. 123-15 of the Mining Code; Decree 71-362 of 6 May 1971 on authorisations for pre-exploration of mineral or fossil substances in the subsoil of the continental shelf.

Exclusive mine search permit

This permit allows the holder to carry out his research on the continental shelf exclusively, as well as to dispose of the products that he can extract from his exploration.

The application for an exclusive permit is made by sending a file to the Minister responsible for mines, including:

  • All the necessary documents to identify the applicant
  • A technical brief
  • The programme of work envisaged;
  • The financial commitment specifying the minimum amount of expenditure that will be planned during the research;
  • Map documents
  • an impact report on the potential impact of the work on the environment.

The Minister's silence within two years is a decision to dismiss the application.

The permit is granted for a maximum of five years.

To go further Articles L. 122-1 to L. 122-3 of the Mining Code; Articles 17 to 23 of Decree No. 2006-648 of June 2, 2006 on mining titles and underground storage titles.

Concession

The concession is awarded for a period of no more than 50 years. It allows the creation of a real estate right on surfaces of the continental shelf.

The grant application will be addressed to the Ministry of Mines and must be made through the filing of a file including:

  • All the necessary documents to identify the applicant
  • A technical brief
  • A description of the work in operation
  • Map documents
  • An impact report on the potential impact of the work on the environment;
  • The financial commitment specifying the minimum amount of expenditure that will be planned during the research;
  • if necessary, the agreement established with the holder of a mining title or a storage title.

For underground storage, the demand must be accompanied by the storage perimeter, the protective perimeter, the nature and the maximum volume of the stored product.

The concession will be granted in a decree taken in the Council of State, after competition.

What to know

The dealer will have the right to dispose of the inaccessible substances that will necessarily be recovered during the work.

The silence kept by the Minister within thirty-six months will be worth rejecting the application and all competing applications.

To go further Articles L. 132-1 and Articles 24-32 of Decree No. 2006-648 of June 2, 2006 on mining titles and underground storage titles.