Never one to mince his words DMR Minister, Gwede Mantashe, has lambasted the status quo with regards to his department being rife and stalled by corruption and endless loops of red-tape when trying to get mining projects up and running.
During his Department of Mineral Resources (DMR) Budget Speech yesterday Mantashe stated that the issuing of mining rights, and the proper processing of applications, for mining licences is now a key priority.
Red tape and corruption
"This aspect of our work is fraught with greater challenges and laced with corruption; from declined prospecting rights, unprocessed applications and unexplained red-tape.
"The preliminary investigation by the DMR has found that the backlog on new mineral right applications stretches as far back as 2012 in some regional offices. It has further been found that the applications for renewal of prospecting right applications go to as far back as 2010."
It is the view of the DMR that unprocessed renewal applications block any other party from applying for a mineral right in that area.
"There are no satisfactory reasons as to why we have these backlogs. The word in the corridors is that applications from ‘known’ or ‘paying’ applicants are prioritized," highlighted Mantashe.
"To unleash our economy, we must overcome this to ensure that prospectors can prospect and those with the legal permits and the means to mine can do so."
Mining Charter and MPRDA
The DMR has intimated that there will be a mining summit after it has finished its reforming of the contentious Mining Charter. Mantashe said the “use it or lose it principle” needs to be discussed with industry resulting from the large number of mines and shafts under care and maintenance.
"The DMR aims to finalise and gazette the Mining Charter in June 2018, having taken onboard inputs and concerns from stakeholders across the country. Thus far the DMR has held consultations in five provinces where mining and labour-sending areas are situated. The DMR has also established a task team, comprising all social partners, to develop a coherent vision for a competitive and sustainable industry. The mining sector must increase its contribution to the GDP of the country," explained Mantashe.
Addressing issues surrounding the finalisation of the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Amendment Bill, 2013 (MPRDA) Mantashe reported that it is before the National Council of Provinces.
"Eight of the nine provincial legislatures supported the Bill in the negotiating mandates process. The DMR has provided responses to the provincial legislatures’ negotiating mandates and the committee is currently negotiating and voting on the mandates," reported Mantashe.
"Once the Select Committee on Land and Mineral Resources has finalised the mandates, it will compile its report and recommend to the National Assembly for further processing of the Bill. We urge Parliament to proceed faster towards finalisation of this Bill, because it is key in entrenching regulatory and policy certainty necessary for investment, thereby attainment of sustainable growth, development and transformation in the sector."
The Departmental Strategic Plan for 2014 to 2019 is the framework the DMR works within. Both the vision and mission statements focus the DMR in its work as the regulator and enforcer of compliance in the sector.
"Vision 2019 states that we want to build “a globally competitive, sustainable and meaningfully transformed mining and mineral sector”, and Vision 2030 sets the task of being “a leader in the transformation of South Africa through economic growth and sustainable development by 2030," highlighted Mantashe.
The mission set out in the strategic plan is that of “promoting and regulating the mineral and mining sector for transformation, growth and development, and ensuring that all South Africans derive sustainable benefits from the country’s mineral wealth.
The DMR is allocated R1,9 billion for the 2018/19 financial year. A considerable portion of this funding - 51% - goes to entities reporting to the DMR, with Mintek and the Council for Geoscience receiving 83% of the transfers, for critical work being undertaken in research and development (R&D).
"The funding allocated to the DMR and its portfolio of entities remains inadequate if we are to effectively carry out our mandate. Addressing this anomaly is important so we are better able to be a catalyst for the growth and development of the economy," highlighted Mantashe.
Mantashe also revealed that the DMR intends to fast-track shale-gas exploration. He firmly believes that exploiting South Africa’s shale gas reserves could transform the country’s energy economy.
"The southern Main Karoo Basin is considered the most prospective area for shale gas, with a possible estimation of 205 Trillion cubic feet of gas technically recoverable, as reported by Petroleum Agency SA," he pointed out.
Health and safety
Since the beginning of 2018 a total of 33 fatalities have been reported. The recent disaster at Sibanye-Stillwater’s Driefontein operation, where seven workers died after a seismic event, should compel the Regulator, business and organised labour to step up efforts on promoting health and safety.
"Health and safety remains a key area of concern, and one which requires consistent priority attention by our social partners. The 2017 calendar year was the first time in ten years where a regression in the number of fatalities was reported, with the gold sector being the leading contributor," said Mantashe.
Illegal mining remains a serious challenge and a danger to society. It places the health and safety of communities at risks. It causes a leakage and costs both the industry and our economy greatly, thereby robbing Government and the people of South Africa of the benefits that should accrue to mining.
"As we explore ways to regulate artisanal mining as means to enable ordinary South Africans participate in mining, we intend having discussions with the Minister of Police on strengthening approaches to dealing with the scourge of illegal mining," stated Mantashe.
"We have witnessed a slow progress in implementing beneficiation, which was adopted as a policy of government in 2011. We will continue to provide value-added training on beneficiation that is not only relevant to marginalized communities, but also enables them to operate small-scale jewellery manufacturing enterprises," stated Mantashe.