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The Draft Mining Law of Timor-Leste

By Joćo Nataf, United Nations Senior Legal Advisor to the RDTL Ministry of Justice

Presented at the International Energy and Mineral Resources Conference
5 – 7 March 2003, Dili, Timor Leste.

Click here for a slide show that accompanies this paper (Slide references in the text refer to this show).


The government has begun to work on the establishment of the necessary legal framework for the industrial development of the country. Pursuing this purpose, Dr. Jack Garnett, an expert on mining legislation, has been working with the Ministry of Development and Environment in drafting a Mining Law for East-Timor but could not attend this conference to present the first draft of this legislation. The draft was prepared as a component of the UN-ESCAP assisted project. This conference gives the opportunity to present the policy background of this proposal as well as the main and more relevant provisions of this draft.

In accordance with this first draft proposal, which is presently being circulated within the government, a National Mineral Rights Registration System (Part II of the draft) shall be established, allowing that a single body will deal with applications, approvals and legal transactions related to mineral licenses and an official license area map will be available to the general public. There will be only one formal document, a Mining License, making the process simple and secure. As in many mining legislation, investment stabilization agreement (Part III) will be possible allowing a maximization of investment for large scale mining projects. Those agreements will be requested to a Minerals Advisory Board, which will have government, local and international representatives. Specially authorized inspectors (Part IV) will be appointed to monitor the mining, the applicability of the legislation as well as all books, accounts, documents and records of mineral license holders. Protection of the environment (Part V) has been specially considered in the proposal. The license holder shall conduct an ecological base-line survey documenting the pre-existing quality of air, water, soil, rock, plant, animal and cultural imprints on the environment as well as the environmental impact assessment study. A Mine Reclamation Guarantee Trust Fund will be established for the purpose of the final post-operational period. And, last but not the least, the Government shall be obliged do coordinate the creation of a sustainable mining partnership (Part VI) with the stakeholders and the local community. This is an innovative aspect of this legislation, designed to create a partnership with the rural and traditional communities where mining activities will most likely take place.

Such legislation will require additional regulations for its full implementation. But, before this takes place, a wide consultation process is needed, this conference being one of its first steps. 

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Joćo M. Nataf completed his Post-Graduation Studies in European Law from the College of Europe (Bruges, Belgium) in 1989 and has been working as a lawyer, government lawyer and legal consultant in Europe and Asia. He has been involved in drafting legislation for the Portuguese (1994) and Chinese (1999) Government of Macau. Since 2001, he is working with the UN in East-Timor as a lawyer, currently as senior legal advisor and drafter, supporting the Ministry of Justice.

The Timor-Leste Institute for Development Monitoring and Analysis (La’o Hamutuk)
Institutu Timor-Leste ba Analiza no Monitor ba Dezenvolvimentu
Rua D. Alberto Ricardo, Bebora, Dili, Timor-Leste
P.O. Box 340, Dili, Timor-Leste
Tel: +670-3321040 or +670-77234330
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