Mining Law: The legal position of the mining industry in Austria derives from early history. The royal mining privilege of the early Middle Ages concerned the Bergzehent (mining tithe), the handing over of a tenth of the metals mined to the king. Later in the Middle Ages, this privilege turned into the royal right to the actual use of the mines. Later, the legal principle of Bergfreiheit (freedom of mining) developed, which is still applied today. The oldest such document is the Bergbrief of Schladming (1308), which referred to Lower Austria, Upper Austria, Styria, Carinthia and parts of Salzburg. Schwaz and Rattenberg (Tyrol), Gmuend (Carinthia) and Murau (Styria) also possess old Bergbrief documents. To many mines (Bleiberg, Huettenberg, etc.) the Bergordnung (mining order) of Bamberg (1550) was applied until 1954. Maximilian I and Ferdinand I issued extensive mining regulations. The general Austrian mining law was issued in 1854, was revised in 1954 and followed the 1975 Mining Act. This still forms the basis for Austrian mining law. It regulates the extraction of free, federal and estate inherent mineral raw materials and in some cases their processing where it is connected to the extraction. The mining authorities of first instance used to be the Berghauptmannschaften. They were responsible for public administration in mining affairs and have offices in Vienna, Graz, Leoben, Klagenfurt, Salzburg and Innsbruck.
Today, Austrian Mining Law is governed by the Mineralrohstoffgesetz (Mineral Raw Materials Act) of 1999. This law regulates the prospecting and mining of all mineral raw materials and contains detailed regulations concerning mining licenses, operating plans, mining installations, supervision etc. Since 1999 magnesite, limestone with a CaCO<SUB>3</SUB> content of at least 95 % and diabase, as long as they are solid rock, and quartz sand with an SiO<SUB>2</SUB> content of at least 80 %, illite clay and other swelling clays in unconsolidated deposit form, have been counted among bergfreie mineral raw materials. Workers protection has sine 1999 been entrusted to the Labour Inspectorates. The administrative structure has been completely remodelled by the Mineral Raw Materials Act of 1999. Open-cast mining of grundeigene mineral raw materials is supervised by the District Administration (first instance), appeals from whose decisions are brought before the Provincial Governor as the second and last instance. All other forms of mineral raw material mining are subject to the Federal Ministry of Economic Affairs (Mining Authority). In the course of licensing procedures, abutting owners, the competent local authority and the provincial government have the right to be heard as parties and may also seek relief from public courts. In addition, there are detailed provisions governing areas where mining is prohibited, as well as protected areas. The law also governs the exploration and investigation of geological structures to be used for storing liquid or gaseous hydrocarbons (petroleum and natural gas). It furthermore regulates the technological aspects of the use of geothermal energy involving shafts, tunnels or boreholes of a depth in excess of 300 m. Further provisions deal with the introduction of materials into subterranean cavities and their storage in such cavities and the utilisation of mining structure of closed pits.