The Commission's in-depth investigation found that Iberpotash benefitted from two illegal support measures: unduly low financial guarantees for the restoration of its mining sites in Súria and Balsareny/Sallent, and full public funding of a €7.9 million investment to cover a waste heap in Vilafruns. As regards the first measure, mining companies must provide guarantees to public authorities that can be drawn on to restore the environmental conditions of the site they operate.
This ensures that these costs are not shifted on to the State, if the mining company fails to meet its environmental protection obligations. In the case of the guarantees provided by Iberpotash for Súria in 2006 and Balsareny/Sallent in 2008, Spanish national courts have found that restoration costs for the sites had been set at an unjustifiably low level. Indeed, in 2016 the regional environmental authorities estimated the costs and set the guarantees at a significantly higher level. As regards the second measure, regional authorities financed the entire investment cost to reduce the negative environmental impact of the waste heap in Vilafruns in 2008 and 2009. EU rules do allow State aid to cover part of the investment costs incurred in improving environmental conditions beyond mandatory levels, but still require Iberpotash to bear 50% of such costs.
As a result of both support measures, Iberpotash did not have to bear the costs of environmental protection that competing mining companies have to bear in the Union, thus gaining an undue competitive advantage. On this basis,the Commission concluded that Iberpotash must pay guarantee fees reflecting the true remediation costs of its sites until 2016 and also return the excess investment costs that were entirely borne by the public authorities.In line with its standard practice, the Commission is asking Spain to recover from Iberpotash these amounts, totalling €5.8 million.
More information will be available on the Commission's competition website, in the public case register under the case number SA.35818.(