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EC toughens explosive regulations

First publishedin Aggregates Business Europe
March April 2010
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The European Commission has adopted new regulations to toughen up the control of explosives for civil use.

Robert Camp looks at the implications for quarry operators Just days after the Madrid train bombings in 2004 in which 191 people were killed, the European Council published its Declaration on Combating Terrorism, which called for terrorist organisations and groups to be "starved of the components of their trade". It called for greater security of firearms, explosives, bomb-making equipment and technologies across the EU, and was the start of a policy response to enhancing the security of explosives across member states.

This was building on the earlier Explosives Directive of 1993, but its primary purpose at the time was to develop a single market in explosives through the harmonisation of product safety standards, which varied substantially.

Following the Madrid atrocity, one of the key measures was setting up a task force drawn from the public and private sector which went on to make a raft of recommendations, one of which was to strengthen the control of explosives for civil use (the Madrid bombings were carried out using commercially available explosives).

On 4 April 2008, the European Commission Directive 2008/43/EC on the Identification and Traceability of Explosives for Civil Uses was formally adopted, giving member states until 4 April 2012 to apply it to their own jurisdictions.

Preventing misuse

In its broadest terms, the directive is aimed at setting up a harmonised system for the safe and secure circulation of explosives in the EU and requires that explosives for civil uses are uniquely identified and can be traced from the production site through to their final use. This is with a view to preventing misuse and theft, and assisting authorities in tracing the origin of lost or stolen explosives as quickly as possible - a process that can take up to two days at present.

It does not apply to pyrotechnics like flares, or ammunition, explosives produced in situ for immediate use, explosives for legal use by the military or police, or unpackaged explosives transported and delivered for direct unloading into blast-holes, for example in pump trucks.

But the proposals will affect and be of interest to a range of businesses and organisations that deal in explosives, including quarry operators who store explosives as part of their business, those involved in the commercial carriage of explosives and those involved in the regulation of explosives security.

In summary, the main duties in the directive are product identification and record keeping.

Under the directive each individual explosive item manufactured in or imported into the European Union after 5 April 2012, and each of the smallest packaging units containing the items, must be uniquely marked with an alphanumerical code and barcode. The label will also have information about the country of production or import and the manufacturer.

These will have to be marked on or firmly fixed to the various types of explosives available, including cartridge explosives, two-component explosives, electric, non-electric and electronic detonators, detonating cords and safety fuses. The Federation of European Explosives Manufacturers estimates that the required changes will affect 200 million articles each year.

All companies and individuals involved in the manufacture, import, transfer or use of the explosives (referred to in the Directive as "the undertakings"), including mine and quarry operators, must also record their involvement in the movement of the explosives and keep these records for 10 years after either the delivery of the explosives or the end of their life cycle. This is the case even if the undertaking has ceased trading. The undertaking must provide the responsible authorities with contact details so that information in their records can be accessed at any time necessary during the required period, including outside of normal business hours.

These record keeping obligations include the following: recording the unique identification and other 'pertinent information', including the explosive type and the company or person to whom its custody was given; recording the location of each explosive until it is transferred to another undertaking or used; testing the data collection system regularly to ensure its effectiveness and data quality; protecting the data collected against accidental or malicious damage or destruction; and providing information upon request that includes the origin and location of each explosive during its life cycle and throughout the supply chain.

"Although it is still two years until the directive comes into force across all member states, and some are still considering exactly how they will enforce the directive and through which national legislative channels, operators would be wise to start thinking about whether their record keeping and stock management needs improvement and, if it does, how they might go about this."

Robert Camp heads the minerals team at Stephens Scown solicitors in the UK which has more than 70 years' experience representing mining and minerals clients. He can be contacted on +44 1392 210700 or email r.camp@stephens-scown.co.uk

Companies in this article

European Commission
European Union
The Federation of European Explosives Manufacturers

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