Metals and minerals: international trade regulations

Regulations for exporters and importers of metals and minerals, including health and safety and a guide to duties and restrictions.

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See UK Trade and Investment’s website, at, who aim to help UK businesses succeed internationally and encourage overseas companies to work with the UK.


This guide provides an overview of the metals and minerals sector, the key regulations you will need to comply with as an exporter or importer and selected sources of further help and support.

It also shows you how to research the countries you plan to export to, and how to comply with health and safety, environmental and sector-specific regulations.

See the detailed guide for help with classifying iron and steel.

Export regulations in the metals and minerals sector

Regulations, charges or other restrictions may apply to metals and minerals exports as they leave the UK and when they arrive at their destination country. It is important that you research both sides of the transaction. Mineral oils, for instance, also attract excise duty - see the section on fuel duty.

For more information, see the guides on exporting your goods from the EU to a third country and dispatching your goods within the EU.

First, you need to classify your goods. Use of standardised classification codes makes it easier to check if any restrictions or charges apply. You can use the Integrated Tariff of the United Kingdom to classify your goods.

For more information on iron and steel, see the guide on classifying iron and steel.

Remember that in general it is much simpler to trade with other EU countries than with countries outside the EU because the goods are in free circulation. The EU is a single market and the UK is in a customs union, so you can trade with other EU countries without restriction (although some local charges and excise duty may still apply).

HMRC operates the Authorised Economic Operator (AEO) scheme. While the scheme is not compulsory, companies that meet the requirements of the scheme will be registered as AEOs and can take advantage of simplified customs procedures that relate to the security and safety of their goods in transit. Read the guide on Authorised Economic Operators.

Export licensing and certification

An export licence is required in order to export specified goods with military uses, or if you trade in strategically controlled goods between overseas countries. You may require an export licence for goods with a potential military use, such as certain metal fuels and alloys with particular characteristics, such as the ability to withstand very high temperatures. To find out more about strategic export controls, see the section on the Export Control Organisation.

For information on export licences, read the guide on Controlled goods: licences, sanctions and embargoes.

Exporting goods for processing

You may be able to obtain relief from customs duties when you re-import European Community (EC) goods that have previously been exported from the EC for processing. Outward Processing Relief (OPR) enables you to claim relief from customs duty if you can show that the exported goods were used in - or incorporated into - the products being imported. Before you can claim duty relief under OPR, however, you must have the appropriate authorisation. For more information, read notice 235 on OPR on the HMRC website and see the guide on outward processing relief (OPR).

New legislation controls activities of the transport sector concerning transport of military items. See the guides on transport controls and brokering trade of dual-use items.

Researching your export destination for metals and minerals

You should thoroughly research your export destination country when planning to export.

There are a number of issues that you ought to consider. As a starting point you may wish to seek advice from UK Trade & Investment. Find your local international trade team on the UK Trade & Investment website.

There are also various ways that you can research a potential export destination. These include trade associations, which are listed at the end of this guide.

Key things to check include:

  • prohibitions or quotas on your products
  • import licensing restrictions
  • rates of duty payable when your goods enter your export market

You should also consider product safety and other technical standards in your export market. Your goods may need to be adapted to comply with these. Rules in your export market may be less or more strict than in the UK.

For a general guide to market information on sectors and countries, see the guide on entering overseas markets.

You can ask for information about your export destination country from a range of organisations, including:

  • your local UKTI trade team
  • your UKTI team within the commercial section of the UK embassy in your destination country
  • metals and minerals sector trade associations
  • the Chambers of Commerce in the UK and in your destination country

UKTI is a government organisation that supports UK businesses trading internationally and overseas enterprises seeking to set up or expand in the UK. UKTI has an impartial global presence in countries throughout the world and helps businesses realise their international potential through knowledge transfer and ongoing partnership support.

Tariffs and duties for metal and mineral imports

There is a range of import-specific regulations to be complied with by all businesses in this sector. The key issues relate to the Tariff, preferential rates of duty, levies charged on aggregates and mining and the Climate Change levy.

Using the Integrated Tariff

A common customs tariff is applied across all EU countries on goods imported from outside the EU. Details of specific tariff duties and measures are contained in the Integrated Tariff of the United Kingdom.

Find out how to classify your goods by reading the guide on classifying iron and steel.

The Tariff is used to determine the specific commodity code of your goods and to discover:

  • any licensing requirements that apply
  • the rates of duty and import VAT that apply
  • any additional charges, such as anti-dumping duties
  • any available preferential duty rates

Preferential rates of duty

The Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) allows products from a wide range of countries to be imported in the EU at a reduced or zero rate of duty.

The European Community has a number of other preferential trade agreements with third countries, as a result of which goods may attract preferential rates of duty.

Find out if your goods qualify for a preferential rate of duty and meet the appropriate rules of origin on the HMRC website.


Intrastat is the method of collecting information and producing statistics on goods traded between EU member states. Intrastat is only applicable to VAT-registered traders.

If you are VAT registered and the goods you acquire from or supply to VAT-registered businesses in other EU countries reach the Intrastat exemption threshold for the year, you must submit monthly supplementary declarations to HMRC. Intrastat thresholds are reviewed annually. The thresholds are £600,000 for Arrivals and £250,000 for Dispatches.

See the guide on Intrastat - reporting the value and volume of intra-EU trade .

Aggregates levy and climate change levy

If you extract aggregates or your business is energy-intensive, you need to be aware of how the aggregates levy and climate change levy may affect your business.

Aggregates and mining

If you extract aggregates, you must register with HMRC and pay a levy, currently set at £2.00 per tonne. The aggregates levy is designed to minimise demand for primary aggregates and promote environmentally-friendly extraction techniques. You can find out how to register and pay the levy on the HMRC website. This also contains details about relief from the levy for aggregates not used for construction - known as industrial and agricultural processes relief.

Tax relief is available for qualifying capital expenditure on mineral acquisition, access and exploration. Read about Mineral Extraction Allowance on the HMRC website.

Relief is also available for aggregates exported outside the UK. Levy on imported aggregates is due not when it arrives in the UK but only when it is commercially exploited. Read about the relief for exported aggregates and about the levy on imported aggregates on the HMRC website.

Climate change

The climate change levy is a tax added to most energy costs used in industry. It applies to gas, electricity, coal and liquefied petroleum gas.

Energy-intensive businesses may benefit from a reduction in the climate change levy negotiated by their trade association. If you belong to one of these climate change agreements (CCA) you can get an 80 per cent discount on the tax, but you and your fellow members will have to reach set targets. Find guidance on cutting your business’s carbon emissions on the Carbon Trust website.

Import regulations in the metals and minerals sector

As the EU is a customs union, you can buy most goods from other member countries without restrictions - although VAT and excise duty can still apply. For more information, see the guide on trading in the European Union.

For information on paying VAT and VAT relief, see the HMRC guide on imports and purchases from abroad: paying and reclaiming VAT.

If you import from outside the EU, you may have to comply with import licensing requirements and with common customs tariffs that apply across the EU. For more information, see the guide on importing your goods from outside the EU.

HMRC runs the Authorised Economic Operator (AEO) scheme. While the scheme is not compulsory, companies that meet the requirements of the scheme will be registered as AEOs and can take advantage of simplified customs procedures that relate to the security and safety of their goods in transit. Read the guide on Authorised Economic Operators.

Import licences

Under Registration, Evaluation, and Authorisation of Chemicals (REACH) legislation, importers or manufacturers of more than one tonne of chemicals a year must register and work with the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA). Read about REACH legislation on the ECHA website.

Download a leaflet on the implications of REACH for importers from the HSE website (PDF, 83K).

Import restrictions can be product-specific or trade-specific. Many products are subject to product-specific standards and need to be supported by applicable certificates, product-specific licences and documentation.

Quite separately, quantitative restrictions or limitations and anti-dumping duties may apply to certain imported commodities. For more information, see the guide on anti-dumping and countervailing duties.

You need a licence to import most iron and steel products. There are also a small number of quantitative quotas against a few exporting countries, for which you will need to apply for an import licence.

For help identifying whether you require an import licence see the guide: Controlled goods: licences, sanctions and embargoes.

Certain raw materials can be imported duty-free if adequate supplies can’t be sourced from within the EU. Under a temporary duty suspension, unlimited quantities can be imported. Under a tariff quota, duty-free imports are limited - once the quota is used up, payment of duty resumes.

Goods imported to the UK must comply with domestic business standards, including those relating to health and safety, standards compliance, environmental protection, planning permission and tax.

Health and safety, environmental and sector regulations for metals and minerals businesses

To safeguard against risks specific to businesses in the metals and minerals sector, you need to comply with UK health and safety and environmental rules and procedures.

If you are extracting, manufacturing or building abroad, you may have local regulations to comply with. Contact the UK embassy of your destination country for advice. Find a list of foreign embassies in the UK on the Foreign & Commonwealth Office website.

Health and safety

Sector-specific risks include exposure to chemicals, noise and dust, operation of dangerous machinery and accidents, such as falling.

The Health & Safety Executive (HSE) publishes health and safety information for businesses in the sector:

Download a guide on the implications of Registration, Evaluation, and Authorisation of Chemicals (REACH) legislation for distributors of chemicals from the HSE website (PDF, 90KB).

Environmental protection

A range of environmental regulations can affect businesses in this sector:

  1. The Pollution Prevention and Control Regulations can apply if production volume rises above a prescribed limit, or if certain substances are used. Your business may need an environmental permit or a pollution prevention and control permit. See the guide on environmental permits, licences and exemptions for metal production.
  2. You must treat all waste before you send it to landfill. Liquid waste is banned. See the guide on how to manage your waste](
  3. Businesses handling metal waste or hazardous waste must hold a waste-management licence.
  4. Some metal production activities are covered by emissions trading rules and require a permit from the environment regulator. In England and Wales, this is the Environment Agency, in Scotland it is the Scottish Environment Protection Agency, and in Northern Ireland it is the Northern Ireland Environment Agency.
  5. Businesses handling or storing oil must comply with oil storage regulations. Read guidance about containers, secondary containment, pipework and pumps on the Environment Agency website.
  6. The Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) regulations, which mean businesses are responsible for collecting and recycling end-of-life products, may affect your business. See the guide on waste management of electrical and electronic equipment.
  7. The Carbon Reduction Commitment (CRC) initiative requires companies consuming over 6,000 megawatt hours of energy a year to register with the Environment Agency. The CRC charges companies for every ton of greenhouse gas they produce. Read CRC qualification and registration guidance on the Environment Agency website.

Standards compliance

A wide range of standards apply to materials such as aggregates and metals used in construction and manufacturing. You can search the internet for the various commercial organisations that deal with standards in construction or manufacturing.

Specific regulations

Additional regulations may apply to your business, eg:

Sources of help and support in the metals and minerals sector

As an importer or exporter in the metals and minerals sector, you can turn to a range of bodies for help and information.

The government organisation with primary responsibility for providing trade support is UK Trade & Investment (UKTI). You can find information on the services they offer to exporters on the UKTI website.

You can also find details of your local trade team using a postcode search on the UKTI website.

Government sources of help and information

In addition to UKTI, other government bodies that provide business support in the metals and minerals sector include:

Trade associations and other bodies

You can find out about the metals and minerals sector on the UKTI website.

Further information

HMRC Tariff Classification Service Enquiry Line

01702 366 077

UK Trade & Investment Enquiry Line

020 7215 8000

Download import and export guidance from the HMRC website (PDF, 341K)

International trade team search on the UKTI website

Trade data information on the uktradeinfo website

Export restriction checker on the BIS Goods Checker website (registration required)

Aggregates levy overview on the HMRC website

Reliefs and special treatment for climate change levy guidance on the HMRC website

Industrial and agricultural processes relief overview on the HMRC website

Mineral Extraction Allowance explained on the HMRC website

CCA explained on the Department of Energy and Climate Change website

REACH legislation information on the ECHA website

CRC qualification and registration information on the Environment Agency website

Metals and minerals environmental regulations information on the Netregs website

Hallmarking guidance on the British Hallmarking Council website

Minerals-sector trade body contact details on the Confederation of British Industry website

Published 7 August 2012