The primary laws and regulations for mineral resources across all 53 African countries will be freely available via a new African mining law online platform, the African Mining Legislation Atlas (AMLA) from year end.
The AMLA platform is a World Bank project, involving partners from across Africa.
The platform aims to promote accessibility of information and transparency in the extractive sector.
Development of the online platform began in late 2013 and already has the basic laws of a considerable number of African countries loaded on the online database. The aim is to have all 53 countries in Africa represented.
“It is well known that one of the barriers to investment in the African resource sector is the absence of certainty about legal frameworks for investors’ trying to make decisions on whether to invest in a particular jurisdiction or not,” says the newly appointed SARChI Research Chair for Mineral Law in Africa, Professor Hanri Mostert at UCT, which is AMLA’s curating partner.
“More astonishing is how inaccessible information to these legal frameworks can be, even in jurisdictions that have comprehensive laws governing the mineral resource sector. In some countries, documents as basic as mining statutes are not freely available at all. That can be a major deterrent to international investors.”
Apart from promoting transparency, accessibility of information and making resource investment decisions in Africa easier, the AMLA initiative also aims to build indigenous capacity for the creation and implementation of sound legal frameworks and governance in the extractive sectors of various African countries.
For this reason it engages and trains law students to populate and maintain the platform. In 2014 and 2015 law students from 17 African universities gathered at UCT to attend intensive multilingual training courses on the legal aspects of Africa’s mining sector, and to build the legal skills necessary to better serve this sector.
“This project is special, because it is about African experts recruiting and training African students to develop African legislation which will then be accessible to people across Africa and the world via the AMLA platform,” says Prof. Mostert. “It is a truly home grown initiative.”
“There is a real need for laws in African countries to take into account the realities of a modern day market economy and current mining techniques, but also the value systems of the jurisdictions that must be served by these laws.”
The time is right for such initiatives, according to Prof. Mostert. “Right now, doom and gloom seem to dominate debate about African mineral resource extraction, due to the drop in commodity prices. However, an economic slump provides a window of opportunity for many African countries to consolidate and improve their legal frameworks governing extractive enterprises.”
“That will enable them to be well prepared to draw more benefit from the resource sector when the economic tides turn again,” she says. “Ideally you want a consolidated resource law framework that deals with extraction consistently, whether it involves base or precious minerals as solids, liquids or gas.”
Prof. Mostert is one of five UCT researchers recently to have been awarded a Chair by the South African Research Chairs Initiative (SARChI) in recognition of the quality of her research. Her Mineral Law in Africa (MLiA) project focuses on collaborative work with scholars from many African countries to promote in-depth research on the laws pertaining to extractives, and on the recruitment of emerging researchers from across the continent.
To visit the AMLA platform, please go to www.a-mla.org.