European Geologist Journal 56

Geological policy in Spain


by Manuel Regueiro y González-Barros1

1 Spanish Official Association of Professional Geologists



Since 2015, the Spanish Official Professional Association of Geologists (Ilustre Colegio Oficial de Geólogos (ICOG)) has consistently presented comprehensive geological policy documents to various political parties and administrations, during national or autonomous communities’ elections. On numerous occasions, the political parties have been invited to the ICOG’s Headquarters in Madrid or to autonomous delegations to engage in seminars and discussions with ICOG members regarding these proposals. Over the previous decade, the list of proposals has been regularly updated to align with the evolving needs of society. This paper focuses on the 2023 version of the proposal, which, even though centred on Spain, can potentially serve as a valuable framework for proposals in any other country.

Cite as: Regueiro y González-Barros, M. (2023). Geological policy in Spain. European Geologist, 56.

1. Introduction

The 2023 document, titled “27 Proposals for a national geological policy in service of citizens” [1] presents a detailed text that organises the proposals into the following chapters:

  1. Education and Universities
  2. Risk management and climate change
  3. Infrastructure and land planning
  4. Environment and sustainable development
  5. Exploration and exploitation of natural resources
  6. Energy policy
  7. Public administrations.

This document has been forwarded to all the political parties participating in the recent general elections and has garnered acknowledgment from some of them. The primary objective of the proposals is to raise awareness among Spanish politicians about the significance of geology in the daily lives of all citizens and to provide specific solutions to the problems that geology can address when it is appropriately understood and applied by the government authorities.

2. Education and Universities

2.1. Inclusion of geological sciences as a mandatory subject in secondary education and high school

In Secondary Education, Biology and Geology should equip students with essential knowledge and skills to foster scientific literacy and enabling them to become active contributors to shaping their environment and understanding the consequences of their actions. This includes familiarity with significant scientific theories like plate tectonics, cell theory, and evolution. Moreover, the curriculum should cover ecosystems, trophic relationships, organism-environment interactions, and their impact on ecosystem dynamics. Unfortunately, in Spain, the study of this subject in the 4th year of Compulsory Secondary Education (Enseñanza Secundaria Obligatoria (ESO)) is currently optional, leading to a gap in geoscientific knowledge among students. To address this, it is crucial to incorporate more mandatory geological content in both ESO and High School. Without a solid foundation in geoscience, students may struggle to grasp the concept of sustainability, engage in collective challenges, and pursue careers in Earth sciences, which could potentially impede innovation and progress in this field.

2.2. Creation of a professional access master’s degree

In Spain, university degrees have been adapted to comply to the Bologna Process, resulting in shorter study plans. Therefore, for geology studies, the undergraduate degree may not provide sufficient knowledge for professional practice. The legal sector provides an illustrative example of where this concern is addressed, where reforms ensure that lawyers and solicitors possess both theoretical and practical knowledge to safeguard citizens’ rights and freedoms. A similar model for the geological sector, already in place in many European countries, is recommended as the best way to ensure quality in professions, where individuals’ safety and property are at stake. This model bears resemblance to the system for selecting secondary education teachers, which entails a competitive exam, approval by the school community through specific training, a one-year public school assignment (unless they have prior teaching experience), and a final examination before an examination board. For the profession of geologists, the proposed model is based on the following stages:

  1. Bachelor’s degree: Responsibility of the universities;
  2. Master’s degree: Shared responsibility of universities, professional associations, and companies;
  3. Internships: Responsibility of professional associations and companies;
  4. Training courses by universities and professional training schools of the professional associations, in accordance with the regulations governing official postgraduate university education, as established in Law 34/2006, of October 30 [2], regarding access to the professions of Lawyer and Solicitor of the Courts.
  5. Risk management and climate change

2.3. Basic law on land planning and natural hazard maps

Given the increasing occupation of land, frequently in an unregulated manner, and the requirement to develop natural hazards maps as stipulated in Article 15 of the Spanish Land Law [3], it is necessary to draft and approve a Basic Law on Land Planning. This should, serve as a universally applicable foundational regulation, without interfering with regional competencies, while also encompassing the development of Natural Risk Prevention Plans by the Autonomous Communities. This is crucial for ensuring proper land planning.

2.4. Improvement of flood risk prevention

Due to its geographical characteristics and river regime, Spain is a country with a high risk of flooding. According to a published study by the Geological Survey of Spain (Instituto Geológico y Minero de España (IGME)) [4] on natural hazards, the potential losses from hazards for the period 1986-2016 amounted to 29.5 billion euros, with 56% of those losses attributed to floods. The same study identifies Andalusia as the most dangerous area with a 22.5% risk of flooding, followed by the Valencian Community with 19.6% and Catalonia with 18.6%. Since flooding is a considerable geological risk that annually causes the most damage in Spain and Europe, structural measures need to be taken to effectively apply Article 11.2 of the Spanish Water Law 29/1985 [5] with the general principle of adapting urban land uses based on natural hazards maps. The proposed measures are:

  • Adopting an insurance policy that responds to real risk.
  • Implementing a policy of compensation for expropriations.
  • Investing in flood control structures, such as flood attenuation reservoirs or channelisation, even if they are costly or have reasonable environmental impact.

Climate change will escalate these catastrophic hydrological processes. Investing in the actions stated above will be the only way to increase resilience. Conversely, neglecting to apply expert knowledge when urbanising will result in greater economic and social costs.

2.5. Improvement of volcanic hazard prevention

The Canary Islands are the only region in Spain with a high volcanic hazard, with recent registered activity on the islands of La Palma, Tenerife, El Hierro, and Lanzarote. It is recommended to streamline the procedures for the establishing a Volcanological Institute. This institute would serve as an observatory dedicated to the study and research of volcanic activity, centralising the efforts of various administrations.

2.6. Improvement of seismic hazard prevention

Regions in Spain with the highest seismic activity, include the southern part of the Iberian Peninsula and some areas in the Pyrenees. These areas require strict enforcement of regulations and oversight by public administrations. The nation needs to update and enhance its seismic-resistant regulations considering scientific and technological advancements and a more comprehensive understanding of seismic risks. Despite the urgency highlighted by the 2011 Lorca earthquake, national seismic-resistant regulations remain outdated in terms of hazard maps, application criteria, and the importance of the “soil factor” in amplifying damage. While earthquakes cannot be predicted, proactive measures can be taken to minimise damage and casualties. Spain should establish a comprehensive plan to prevent seismic risks, which involve implementing preventive measures based on seismic hazard and vulnerability studies, especially in high-risk areas. Methodological guidelines for natural risk prevention must be developed and widely disseminated to ensure their application by various authorities and the general population. Although Spain has advanced legislation in place, its real and effective implementation lags. In 2008, the ICOG (Spanish Official Association of Professional Geologists) collaborated with The Ministry of Housing to produce a “Methodological Guide for the Development of Natural Hazards Maps in Spain” [6].

2.7. Prevention of radon inhalation risk

Radon gas poses a potential threat in certain areas of Spain, including Madrid, Castilla-León, Extremadura, and Galicia, particularly in regions with a predominantly granitic geological substrate. Radon, an odourless and invisible gas, is created through the natural decay of radium and uranium in soil and rocks, accumulating indoors over time. High levels of radon in homes can significantly harm health, increasing the risk of lung cancer by up to sevenfold and contributing to 3% to 14% of lung cancer cases worldwide, according to the World Health Organization ( Smokers face an even higher risk, with a 67-fold increase in probability. Several factors influence radon concentration in homes, including soil type, porosity, permeability, and construction materials. Certain construction materials and building features can allow radon to enter buildings. Therefore, it is crucial for General Urban Plans to conduct local studies on radon emissions risks in homes to incorporate risk considerations in new constructions and recommend necessary rehabilitation measures for existing buildings. Notably, the Spanish Building Code (SBC) has recently introduced a new section DB-HS 6 Radon Protection.

2.8. Reduction of subsidence hazards

Spain faces a significant risk of subsidence, primarily due to the presence of soluble materials in its subsurface, which can lead to gradual or sudden land sinking. This risk is influenced by climatic conditions and subsurface materials, with limestone and evaporite-rich areas being particularly vulnerable. Karst processes can develop underground, often remaining hidden until cavities and collapses reach the surface. Spain’s Cenozoic basins, such as the Ebro and Duero basins, the Tajo fault, and the Guadalquivir basin, contain substantial quantities of highly soluble salts, causing geotechnical issues in many cities. Approximately 7% of Spain’s national territory is characterised by outcrops of evaporitic units, [7] and in other areas, these units are found at shallow depths beneath non-soluble alluvial and colluvial deposits. To address this unique risk, it is crucial to integrate various study methodologies, including historical and geomorphological perspectives on karst risk, the incorporation of geological and geotechnical data into risk maps, prevention plans, and urban planning. Additionally, predictive tools are needed to assess susceptibility and temporal evolution of these processes, particularly when dealing with highly soluble salts. Without preventive action, the impacts of climate change, such as declining groundwater levels, could result in significant economic and social costs.

2.9. Improvement of response mechanisms to natural disasters

Although notable progress has been made in the field of Civil Protection, we consider it necessary to continue promoting prevention and planning mechanisms for disasters. Natural hazard maps provide a competitive advantage in emergency planning processes for earthquakes, floods, landslides, volcanic eruptions, tsunamis, or coastal risks. The role of this discipline in early detection and warning processes for these phenomena is also important. This would enhance emergency management by establishing more efficient action protocols and integrating all available resources and scientific knowledge through the Operational Coordination Centres. Additionally, the training of personnel should be improved to provide higher quality citizen assistance and enhance the overall operation.

Public education is also crucial in prevention efforts. Education focussed on prevention, as well as creating a broader culture and awareness of safety within individuals and institutions, is fundamental in effectively managing natural risks.

3. Infrastructures and land planning

3.1. Development and implementation of a geological mapping plan

The approval of Law 14/2010, of July 5th, on Infrastructures and Geographic Information Services in Spain (Ley de Infraestructuras y Servicios de Información Geográfica de España (LISIGE)) [8], marked the first time in history that Geological Cartography was included as one of the official cartographies in Spain. This implies the obligation for administrations to update and maintain it. Currently, cartographic activities of this nature are registered by the Geological Survey of Spain (IGME) in the National Cartographic System. With the integration of IGME into the Spanish National Research Council (Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas (CSIC)), there is a need to establish an organisation responsible for developing the Geological Cartography Plan within the framework of the National Cartographic Plan (Plan Cartográfico Nacional (PCN)). The PCN is an instrument approved every four years by the Council of Ministers and should be adequately funded for the update and maintenance of National Geological Cartography, which currently lacks an executing body.

3.2. Creation of an observatory for general urban planning and a reference centre for natural hazards

The increase in damages from natural hazards is primarily due to the growing population exposed to them, making it crucial to incorporate these phenomena into all territorial planning instruments. Compliance with the Spanish Land Law, as outlined in Royal Legislative Decree 2/2008 [3] is essential. This law mandates that urban development undergo prior environmental assessment and sustainability reports, including natural hazard maps. However, a recent study (by ICOG) identified deficiencies in compliance, with only 7.5% of Spanish municipalities with high natural risks adhering to these requirements.

To address this issue, it is recommended that all municipalities fall under the jurisdiction of the responsible ministry to ensure compliance with the legal requirement for natural hazard maps. A Technical Regulation for the development of these maps should be urgently enacted, incorporating guidelines from the Methodological Guide for Natural Risk Maps. Establishing a Sectorial Conference on Urban Planning is important for collaboration between the State and Autonomous Communities in preparing this cartography. Additionally, geological-geotechnical, hydrogeological, and natural risk studies should be integrated into various planning figures, considering current regulations.

In response to the challenges posed by climate change, the establishment of a Natural Hazards Reference Centre is proposed to monitor, analyse, and disseminate information related to economic, social, and environmental aspects of natural hazards. This centre could be attached to the Geological Survey of Spain (IGME), which currently serves as the national reference centre for natural hazards within the European Environment Agency framework.

3.3. Mandatory approval and registration of geotechnical studies in building construction

According to the available data, the requirement for registration and approval in the corresponding professional body of geotechnical studies for building projects, resulted in a reduction of incidents and accidents. However, since its abolition by Royal Decree 1000/2010 [9], dated the 5th of August, such incidents have increased, negatively affecting public safety.

It is thus proposed to reinstate the mandatory registration in the professional body of all geotechnical studies in building construction, as previously outlined in Chapter 3 of the Basic Structural Document Foundations (Documento Básico Estructural Cimentaciones (DBE_C)) of the Technical Building Code (Código Técnico de la Edificación (CTE)) (Annex 1) [10]. Furthermore, given the existing challenges and the expiration of the review period stipulated in Royal Decree 1000/2000, which eliminated the mandatory registration by professional associations, we believe it is necessary to promote the update of the list of professional works subject to mandatory approval, as specified in Article 2 of the decree. This update should clearly include geotechnical studies for building construction within this requirement.

3.4. Reform of the basic documents of the technical building code and the general regulation of the public procurement law

The Technical Building Code (CTE) [10] undergoes regular reviews every five years to incorporate technological advancements and ensure regulatory compliance. However, it is essential to revise the CTE to mandate geotechnical studies for all types of buildings. This also includes self-built single-family homes, regardless of whether they require ten-year structural damage insurance. Additionally, these geotechnical studies should be subject to control by the Technical Control Organisation (Organización de Control Técnico (OCT)).

Currently, geological and geotechnical studies, crucial for proper infrastructure planning, are often presented as annexes within civil engineering projects and are not adequately emphasised. They lack binding and contractual significance, making them susceptible to budget cuts. To address this issue, it is proposed that the General Regulation of the Law on Public Procurement Contracts, which is outdated, be reformed. Mandatory geological and geotechnical studies should be independently tendered and contracted before final project design, with allocated financial resources and the responsibility of competent technicians. This approach aims to prevent cost overruns, deviations, and project issues that can have economic and social consequences.

4. Environment and sustainable development

4.1. Groundwater protection plan against contamination

To prioritise water protection, there is a need for increased economic and human resources, aligning with European environmental policy goals. This policy emphasises safeguarding all types of water bodies, including surface, groundwater, transitional, and coastal waters. Updating assessments of potential contamination sources and implementing measures to protect water for human consumption is essential. This entails defining and enforcing protection perimeters and safeguard zones, integrating these measures into planning instruments, and obtaining the necessary licenses from competent authorities in land management, urban planning, and hydrological planning. Furthermore, professionalism among stakeholders involved in water abstraction and usage should be enhanced. Regulations, developed in collaboration with professional associations, should ensure that qualified professionals are responsible for activities like constructing and decommissioning abstractions. Additionally, any exploration or utilisation of water resources should require justification supported by a hydrogeological report signed by a competent technician.

4.2. Drought effects prevention

To effectively combat drought, the ICOG considers it crucial to adopt a holistic perspective on water within hydrographic basins. This entails detailed and constantly updated knowledge for water management, in order to understand the dynamics and characteristics of all stages of the local hydrological cycle. Special emphasis should be placed on the strategic role of groundwater and the combined use of groundwater and surface water to address both episodic and structural drought incidents.

4.3. Greater promotion of geothermal energy for the energy transition

Significant push is required for geothermal energy, given its high long-term value as a renewable energy source with consistent supply. A White Paper on Low-Enthalpy Geothermal Energy should serve as a basis for implementing policies with measurable indicators of generation and energy efficiency, fostering appropriate legislation, and providing financial support (subsidies or loans) for the development of geothermal energy in buildings.

Low-enthalpy geothermal energy for building heating and cooling, which are been successfully used in many European countries (such as Sweden, Austria, Switzerland, Germany, Italy, and Denmark), as well as in the United States and Japan, provides significant energy savings thanks to the significant development of geothermal heat pumps (GHP).

In Spain, the Basque Country, Catalonia, and Valencia are giving greater stimulus to the development of this type of energy. Essentially, it harnesses the heat accumulated in the ground as a result of solar radiation. The Earth absorbs and releases heat in a way that maintains a relatively homogeneous temperature in the shallow layers, between 5 and 100 meters deep, throughout the year. Geothermal energy represents savings of up to 80% compared to diesel and 70% compared to gas [11].

4.4. Research and development of H2 and CO2 storage technologies

In the coming years, it is crucial to prioritisze the development of H2 (hydrogen) storage technologies to serve as energy reservoirs during periods of overproduction. This will ensure the ability to meet rising electricity demand during periods of low production. Additionally, advancements in carbon capture and storage (CCS) technologies are necessary to enable gas-fired power plants with their own CO2 capture and storage mechanisms. This approach would allow for meeting electricity demand using fuels like methane found in coal beds with known reserves in Spain, while preventing CO2 emissions into the atmosphere. These actions are imperative to address climate change and make fossil fuel-based energies more sustainable.

4.5. Research and exploitation of natural hydrogen reserves

Natural hydrogen will be a future fuel that guarantees sustainability for the system. The recent discovery of a significant natural hydrogen deposit in the province of Huesca (Spain) necessitates promoting exploration policies for this new resource, which is crucial in the energy transition.

4.6. Protection, use, and management of geological diversity (geodiversity) and geological heritage

These proposals have already been presented by the Geological Society of Spain and endorsed by the following national laws: Law 42/2007 of December 13 on Natural Heritage and Biodiversity [12], Law 5/2007 of April 3 on National Parks [13] and Law 45/2007 of December 13 on Sustainable Development of Rural Areas [14]. They are also supported by the derived regulations, among which the following stand out: Royal Decree 752/2010 of June 4 [15], the first program for sustainable rural development for the period 2010-2014; Royal Decree 556/2011 of April 20 [16], for the development of the Spanish Inventory of Natural Heritage and Biodiversity, and Royal Decree 1274/2011 of September 16 [17], the strategic plan for natural heritage and biodiversity for the period 2011-2017. The ICOG supports and defends them in their entirety:

  1. The Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Environment must safeguard all-natural heritage: biotic and abiotic, including the conservation of geodiversity and its heritage in the same way as biodiversity;
  2. Promote the development and compliance with legislative norms and initiatives, both national and international, aimed at the conservation and sustainable use of geodiversity and geological heritage, specifically: ensuring effective protection and conservation of geodiversity and geological heritage;
  3. Promote public and private initiatives aimed at studying and cataloguing geological heritage, its conservation, and sustainable educational, outreach, and tourism use;
  4. Natural heritage versus cultural heritage. In compliance with Law 42/2007, paleontological heritage is considered natural heritage and not cultural heritage and should be treated and managed accordingly by the competent administration;
  5. Integration of geological heritage in the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) of projects;
  6. Regulation of collecting, looting, and exploitation of geological sites.
  7. Exploration and exploitation of natural resources

4.7. Legal changes for sustainable management of natural resources

The mining industry worldwide, and particularly in Spain, has undergone radical changes in recent decades. The current Mining Law, dating back to 1973 [18] and being pre-constitutional (the Spanish Constitution was approved in 1978), has become obsolete for the current reality. Therefore, it is necessary to develop a new Mining Law to address the new challenges of our mining industry (streamlined project processing, legal certainty, competition from other countries, ornamental rocks, quarry products, gravels and aggregates, carbon capture and storage, natural hydrogen, etc.).

The last Spanish Government proposed an Agenda for the Sustainable Exploitation of Natural Resources, which ICOG fully supports.

The fundamental pillars of this agenda were:

  1. Geological and mining exploration by the Geological Survey of Spain (now under the Spanish National Research Council);
  2. Adaptation of the pre-constitutional Mining Law to the state of the autonomous communities;
  3. New regulation on Mining Safety;
  4. Legal framework for the restoration of mining operations;
  5. Improvement in mining statistics;
  6. Review of the objectives of the Circular Spain 2030 for raw materials;
  7. Utilisation of mining waste;
  8. Rehabilitation of abandoned mining spaces and facilities;
  9. Enhancement of mining cavities;
  10. Improvement of the mining cadastre;
  11. Statistical studies on the present and future supply and demand of mineral raw materials;
  12. Analysis of critical raw materials for the Spanish industry;
  13. Promotion of industrial value chains;
  14. Improvement of mining productivity;
  15. Circular economy;
  16. Development of policies for good governance, transparency, ethics, and regulatory compliance;
  17. Promotion of talent and employment with a gender equality perspective in the mining industry;
  18. Enhancement of training;
  19. Digitalisation;
  20. Promotion of European industrial alliances;
  21. Design of financial instruments to support the extractive industry;
  22. Best available techniques for reducing environmental impact and emissions;
  23. Recycling of waste;
  24. Emission reduction;
  25. Support for more sustainable processes;
  26. Improvement of infrastructure;
  27. Marketing and internationalisation of mining, auxiliary, and service companies;
  28. Just transition;
  29. Impact of mining on depopulated areas in Spain;
  30. Support for research;
  31. National Geothermal Research Plan (already developed by IDAE).

To streamline project processing in the mining sector, it is proposed that a new law or agenda should unify permit acquisition processes (mining and environmental) into a single procedure managed by a mining permit office. This office would handle all procedures and forward applications to relevant centres with the necessary competence. The new law should also establish principles of sustainable mining management, circular economy, and corporate social responsibility for mining companies, as well as clearly define the competencies of different stakeholders, including the state, autonomous communities, and municipalities.

In terms of exploration permits, the current maximum surface area is considered excessive, and a reduction to 600 mining grids is proposed. Definitions of resource types in the existing mining law and regulations need to be updated to align with current knowledge and technological advancements. It is suggested that low and very low enthalpy geothermal resources be excluded from mining legislation, focusing only on medium and high enthalpy resources that require drilling deeper than 200 meters. Additionally, it is recommended that areas with cancelled permits become open for registration automatically. Local communities with mining operations should receive additional benefits beyond those already established by law, similar to regulations for hydraulic fracturing projects.

Regarding professional competencies, we propose the repeal of the Complementary Technical Instructions of the General Regulation of Basic Mining Safety Standards as they limit professional competencies compared to the current law and its regulations. The suggestion is to base professional competencies on both academic training and professional experience, following a liberalising trend observed in the European Union and ensuring safety while allowing the market to determine qualified professionals for specific tasks.

4.8. Roadmap for a national mining policy

Spain lacks a comprehensive national mining policy that should align with the EU Raw Materials Initiative. The country holds significant mining potential that could enhance development, employment, and the national standard of living. To achieve this, a new Mining Law is required, along with adjustments to legislation concerning territorial planning and the environment. Territorial planning should prioritise mineral resource existence before land use decisions to prevent resource sterilisation. Municipal urban planning should include maps of mineral resources, prepared by the mining authority in collaboration with the Geological Survey of Spain, to guide future land use decisions. Comprehensive mining exploration plans are also essential, aligning objectives with national needs, including critical minerals for industry. Life cycle studies of materials and circular economy models should be conducted by the Geological Survey of Spain to understand these needs. Educational outreach programs about the importance of mineral resources should be integrated into schools and high schools as part of the mining policy. Additionally, enhancing the efficiency of mining exploration, exploitation, and production is crucial. A technological research plan in mining, led by the Geological Survey of Spain and funded by the relevant ministry, should strengthen research and technological development in the mining sector. Collaboration with industry stakeholders, following the European model, should be established. The primary objectives of the National Mining Policy should be to improve accessibility to national mineral resources for investors and promote their exploration and exploitation while ensuring sustainability and environmentally responsible practices.

4.9. Regulation of hydraulic fracturing and hydrocarbon prospecting

According to Article 8.1 of the Spanish Climate Change and Energy Transition Law [19] “no new authorisations will be granted for activities related to the extraction of hydrocarbons that involve the use of high-volume hydraulic fracturing.” However, in order to create strategic reserves for emergency situations, exploration authorisations and research permits should be allowed based on social and economic interests or the absence of technological alternatives. National Defence and Public Security interests should also be considered. The ban, as demonstrated by the war in Ukraine, causes serious harm to the national industry, and hydraulic fracturing (fracking) should be authorised as long as it is executed based on the precautionary and preventive principles outlined in Article 191.2 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union [20], through an appropriate Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), in accordance with Legislative Royal Decree 1/2008 [21], of January 11, approving the consolidated text of the Environmental Impact Assessment Law for Projects, and Law 6/2010, of March 24 [22], amending the same, as well as the rest of the current regulations at the European, national, and regional levels that are applicable, in order to avoid any type of impact on people, property, and the environment.

Research and exploitation projects involving natural resources, like shale gas, require a specialised team of experts in natural environments and mining research. These experts should oversee drilling processes, monitor them effectively, and control any potential environmental consequences. It is crucial for Spain to expand its inventory of available resources, including shale gas, to make informed decisions about their exploitation based on economic and geopolitical factors. While delaying resource exploitation can be reasonable when circumstances permit, not knowing the extent of available resources can have significant consequences. To ensure energy supply and economic stability, studies should be conducted to facilitate decision-making.

ICOG advocates for balancing economic development and environmental protection. They emphasise that techniques promoting energy self-sufficiency should not be dismissed. The Spanish state should regulate the exploitation of unconventional hydrocarbons like hydraulic fracturing within its competencies, considering strategic environmental planning, the unconventional nature of the technique, and environmental limitations. Exploration and research permit for hydrocarbons should be allowed to create strategic reserves. Spain’s high energy dependence on imported oil and gas underscores the importance of investigating indications for finding oil traps within the country through controlled drilling, including offshore exploration. A comprehensive State Pact is proposed among political groups and social actors to reduce Spain’s energy dependence, emphasising the reconciliation of economic development and environmental protection. The debate should not be limited to “prospecting yes or no,” as it is essential to protect both economic development and the environment.

5. Energy policy

5.1. Radioactive waste law

Extending the lifespan of nuclear power plants necessitates updated geological risk studies, particularly considering climate change-related phenomena like droughts and floods. However, the foremost concern is the management of radioactive waste, for which a definitive solution is lacking. Establishing a stable regulatory framework is crucial to construct a Deep Geological Repository (DGR), preceded by an underground laboratory. The Centralised Temporary Storage (CTS) project serves as an interim, time-limited stage with a focus on research and development (R&D). During this phase, underground facilities are essential. A long-term National Energy Plan, agreed upon by different political parties, is necessary for economic investments and nuclear site safety. Shifting energy policies can impede investments and negatively impact nuclear safety. Quality-assured site characterisation studies are emphasised, and their results should inform decision-making processes, as geological and geotechnical risks can render nuclear facility safety unfeasible.

6. Public administrations

6.1. Law on services and professional associations: professional statute

A new Law on Services and Professional Associations is necessary, aligning with Article 36 of the Spanish Constitution. This law should harmonise the responsibilities of various regulated professions at the national level, assigning shared duties when needed to promote equal opportunities and a unified market for professional practice. The existing Law on Professional Associations from 1974 is outdated and requires comprehensive adaptation to the regulatory framework governing regulated professions. The new law should determine which professions require mandatory membership in professional associations. Given the significance of this issue in the service market, both nationally and within the European framework, it should be addressed in accordance with Community Law. The elimination of barriers to the free movement of people and services among EU Member States is a key objective of the European Community, as stated in Article 3.1.c of the Constitutive Treaty. This goal allows nationals of Member States to practice a profession in a different Member State from where they acquired their qualifications. To achieve this, the law should consider the primacy of the Professional Qualifications Directive 2005/36/EC [23], which relate to the recognition of professional qualifications. These directives provide a framework for mutual recognition of diplomas, certificates, and other qualifications. Spain has already incorporated Directive 2005/36/EC into its legislation through Royal Decree 1837/2008.

The development of a regulation governing the curriculum for science professions is necessary to effectively regulate these professions. Additionally, the Spanish Professional Union proposes the enactment of a Professional Statute to provide a clear and recognised definition of the concept of a profession, aiming to create a distinctive and identifiable category that values professional work. The Professional Statute would apply to all regulated professions, i.e., those that share the following essential principles:

  1. Relevant/adequate qualifications given the provision of services of marked intellectual nature, as well as continuous training, continuous professional development, recognition and validation of professional competence;
  2. Independence of professional judgment or professional autonomy in the context of professional practice, in any field of activity, including those based on public and private employment relationships;
  3. Responsibility of the practicing professional as a result of their professional freedom to act according to their knowledge and conscience;
  4. Control of professional practice by an independent, autonomous, and impartial body endowed with public powers to regulate the profession and carry out the ethical function;
  5. Action based on the impact on the general interest/in the interest of the client, patient, or user, of quality and with a commitment to strict and precise respect for professional ethics and norms.

In these professions, a key aspect is the professional act, meaning that the practice of the profession directly or indirectly impacts those who use or benefit from the services provided, potentially affecting their fundamental rights. Due to this, every professional is required to adhere to ethical rules and be subject to oversight of their professional practice by an independent body. This oversight is based on the requirement of possessing an enabling degree and being a member of a professional association, which are essential elements mandated by the Spanish Constitution. This statute will revolve around the following main aspects:

  1. General principles of professional practice. Autonomy, independence, good practice, continuous professional development, competence, registration of membership, incompatibilities, continuous training, principles of professional ethics, professional career;
  2. Modalities of practice: public, private (freelance, corporate, …), multidisciplinary teams, contracted, voluntary/volunteering, online services;
  3. Control/Guarantee of professional practice. Ethical function, disciplinary authority, responsibility, liability insurance, service quality;
  4. Obligations and rights. Fees, informed consent, professional engagement, data handling;
  5. Advertising regulations;
  6. Professional registry;
  7. Relations with the administration;
  8. International relations.

6.2. Creation of the national geological institute

The ICOG proposes the creation of a National Geological Institute with the rank of General Directorate, with the following functions:

  • Development of the Geological Mapping Plan within the framework of the National Cartographic Plan (PCN), an instrument approved by the Council of Ministers every 4 years, endowed with the appropriate budget for the update and maintenance of the National Geological Mapping, which currently lacks an executing body.
  • Integration of competencies in volcanic and seismic risks (including the seismic network of the National Geographic Institute (IGN)) into the National Geological Institute to facilitate the management of emergency situations and natural disasters, such as the Lorca earthquake or volcanic eruptions on the islands of La Palma or El Hierro.
  • Integration of the competencies of the National Geological Institute of the extinct Geological Survey of Spain in the fields of Mining, Groundwater, Geological Hazards, and Geological Heritage.

A National Geological Institute operating like the United States Geological Survey (USGS), one of the most prestigious institutions in the world in the study of earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, and in the geological knowledge of the territory and its dissemination.

6.3. More geologists in the public sector

The ICOG criticises the limited presence of geology professionals in public administrations and highlights discrimination in public employment requirements. Many contracts in the public sector demand specific qualifications (usually civil or mining engineers) for certain roles, excluding geologists or geological engineers, even though they possess recognised competences and attributions according to Royal Decree 1378/2001 [25]. This restriction hinders access to economic activity, violating the principles of the Law 20/2013 on Guarantee of Market Unity [26].

To address this issue, there is a need for increased representation of new constitutional professions, like geologists, hydrogeologists, and others, in the staffing structures of public administrations. These professionals are crucial for the proper application of legislation, regulations, and projects related to natural sciences, ensuring sustainable development as demanded by citizens. Specialists in natural sciences should be present in the management bodies of protected natural spaces to uphold the proper application of Law 42/2007 on Natural Heritage and Biodiversity [10].

With the Technical Building Code [10] and the Land Law [3] in effect, housing and construction authorities require an adequate number of geotechnical specialists to develop technical regulations, ensure quality in geotechnical studies, and incorporate the latest technologies.

Equal opportunities must be guaranteed in professional practice, with decisions based on professional competences rather than arbitrary decisions by public corporations.

7. Conclusions

Geology is the science that studies the Earth and describes and interprets its composition, structure, evolution, and current dynamics. Throughout history, geology has always been an important factor in the economic, social, and cultural development of societies. In the 21st century, geology has a significant role to play in addressing contemporary challenges. It can and should contribute to meeting society’s demands, including the supply of raw materials, the understanding and management of freshwater resources, the planning, design, and construction of civil works and buildings, the fight against climate change, and the promotion of clean energies, such as geothermal energy. Above all, there is a growing recognition for the importance of studying active geological processes and the associated risks they pose. These processes include: seismicity, volcanism, floods, landslides, subsidence, erosion, and more. They present real threats and cause numerous casualties and substantial damage to both people and infrastructure.

To address these challenges, a better-informed citizenry is needed, as citizen participation is already key in all policies that aim for sustainability. In this regard, we are concerned about the limited understanding of geology, as there is a lack of time in schools to explain the origins of everything around us. This basic deficiency has negative repercussions both on scientific culture and on the inability to understand the world from a global perspective. The absence of engaged and informed citizenry results in long-term negative effects and represents a waste of significant potential.

Our lives are intricately linked with planet Earth, and understanding its behaviour, offers us the opportunity to harness its resources and also shield ourselves from the perils of its natural processes. This knowledge allows us to avoid attributing accidents or natural disasters to nature or divine forces when scientific understanding of many of these threatening phenomena is accessible. The development and implementation of initiatives related to these contributions from applied geology and geological engineering will yield significant social and economic benefits for Spain.

This knowledge holds significant potential for economic development. For this reason, Spanish geologist members of the Spanish Official Professional Association of Geologists (ICOG), have compiled this document containing their contributions for the general elections. The purpose is to provide our country with a national geological policy for analysis, study, and evaluation by political parties. If deemed suitable, this policy should be included in their respective electoral programs.

Funding: This research received no external funding.

Acknowledgments: The author acknowledges the members of the Board of ICOG by the suggestions received for the original draft text.

Conflicts of Interest: The authors declare no conflict of interest.


  1. Propuestas para una política geológica nacional al servicio de la ciudadanía. 27 propuestas para 2027.
  1. Ley 34/2006, de 30 de octubre, sobre el acceso a las profesiones de Abogado y Procurador de los Tribunales. (
  2. Real Decreto Legislativo 7/2015, de 30 de octubre, por el que se aprueba el texto refundido de la Ley de Suelo y Rehabilitación Urbana. (
  3. Análisis del impacto de los riesgos geológicos en España. evaluación de pérdidas por terremotos e inundaciones en el. periodo 1987-2001 y estimación para el período 2004- 2033. (
  4. Ley 29/1985, de 2 de agosto, de Aguas. (
  5. Guía metodológica para la elaboración de cartografías de riesgos naturales en España. (
  6. F Gutiérrez, F Ortí, M Gutiérrez, A Pérez-González, G Benito, JG Prieto, JJ Durán Valsero. The stratigraphical record and activity of evaporite dissolution subsidence in Spain. Carbonates and Evaporites, 2001. Springer.
  7. Ley 14/2010, de 5 de julio, sobre las infraestructuras y los servicios de información geográfica en España.(
  8. Real Decreto 1000/2010, de 5 de agosto, sobre visado colegial obligatorio. (
  9. Código técnico de la edificación. (
  10. Regueiro. El papel de la geotermia en el futuro energético de España. Cuadernos de energía, ISSN 1698-3009, Nº. 38, 2013, págs. 71-75
  11. Ley 42/2007, de 13 de diciembre, del Patrimonio Natural y de la Biodiversidad. (
  12. Ley 5/2007, de 3 de abril, de la Red de Parques Nacionales. (
  13. Ley 45/2007, de 13 de diciembre, para el desarrollo sostenible del medio rural. (
  14. Real Decreto 752/2010, de 4 de junio, por el que se aprueba el primer programa de desarrollo rural sostenible para el período 2010-2014 en aplicación de la Ley 45/2007, de 13 de diciembre, para el desarrollo sostenible del medio rural. (,Real%20Decreto%20752/2010%2C%20de%204%20de%20junio%2C%20por,desarrollo%20sostenible%20del%20medio%20rural.)
  15. Real Decreto 556/2011, de 20 de abril, para el desarrollo del Inventario Español del Patrimonio Natural y la Biodiversidad. (
  16. Real Decreto 1274/2011, de 16 de septiembre, por el que se aprueba el Plan Estratégico del Patrimonio Natural y de la Biodiversidad 2011-2017, en aplicación de la Ley 42/2007, de 13 de diciembre, del Patrimonio Natural y de la Biodiversidad. (
  17. Ley 22/1973, de 21 de julio, de Minas. (
  18. Ley 7/2021, de 20 de mayo, de cambio climático y transición energética. (
  19. Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union. (
  20. Real Decreto Legislativo 1/2008, de 11 de enero, por el que se aprueba el texto refundido de la Ley de Evaluación de Impacto Ambiental de proyectos. (
  21. Ley 6/2010, de 24 de marzo, de modificación del texto refundido de la Ley de Evaluación de Impacto Ambiental de proyectos, aprobado por el Real Decreto Legislativo 1/2008, de 11 de enero. (
  22. Directive 2005/36/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 7 September 2005 on the recognition of professional qualifications (Text with EEA relevance). (
  23. REAL DECRETO 1837/2008, de 8 de noviembre, por el que se incorporan al ordenamiento jurídico español la Directiva 2005/36/CE, del Parlamento Europeo y del Consejo, de 7 de septiembre de 2005, y la Directiva 2006/100/CE, del Consejo, de 20 de noviembre de 2006, relativas al reconocimiento de cualificaciones profesionales, así como a determinados aspectos del ejercicio de la profesión de abogado. (
  24. Real Decreto 1378/2001, de 7 de diciembre, por el que se aprueban los Estatutos del Colegio Oficial de Geólogos. (
  25. Ley 20/2013, de 9 de diciembre, de garantía de la unidad de mercado. (

This article has been published in European Geologist Journal 56 – Geoscience in policy making: Past experience, current practice and future opportunities

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