The Constitutional
Court building in
Johannesburg, South Africa — 16 April 2012 – The Department of Mineral Resources’ promise to the mining industry to combine all approval processes for mining projects within a single process under one umbrella is in tatters.

The department’s say on how and where mining can take place has been seriously diluted by a far-reaching double ruling by the Constitutional Court.

Revealing this here, Fin24 reports that the ruling confirms the need to rezone land on which mining takes place. This may be a small matter, but in practice it gives provinces and municipalities the final word on the application of the mining rights awarded by the department, the report adds.

In the court documents the department declared the situation constitutionally impermissible. The Chamber of Mines says this creates an “impossible situation” similar to that with which mines already have to deal in regard to environmental approvals.

It also affords activists opposing mining projects powerful new ammunition to get interdicts against existing mining projects and to nip potential new mining projects in the bud.

The rezoning consultation process duplicates processes that already have to be followed in terms of the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act, but is being broadened so that other groups and stakeholders’ interests are also taken into account, according to legal experts with whom Sake24 had discussions.

The preference that mining, thanks to the act, enjoys over other land uses, is now being affected, says Warren Beech, a partner at legal firm Webber Wentzel involved with environmental concerns.

Until now, he said, mining has effectively enjoyed preference over, for instance, agriculture, but with the zoning requirements other interests could carry more weight. There is no guarantee of success in getting land rezoned and it is entirely possible that mines might be stopped in this way.

“The balance of power has been disturbed.”

Source: Fin24. For more information, click here.