Mineral Resources Minister Susan Shabangu last week announced that she hoped that amended minerals and mining legislation would be passed by Parliament by the end of this year. The amendments are intended to tackle weaknesses in the current legislation, which became apparent last year.
The Department of Mineral Resources (DMR) has been undertaking a review of the current legislation and the proposed amendments will be presented to Cabinet and, once approved by Cabinet, set before Parliament. The process is expected to take most of the rest of the year to allow time for the widest possible consultation.
Shabangu gave the assurance that mineral rights granted under the current law would in no way be affected by the proposed amended legislation.
The Minister also announced that a new Electronic Mineral Management System (EMMS) was being implemented, at a cost of R3,4-million, to replace the existing National Mineral Promotion System (NMPS). The NMPS was discredited by controversies last year.
The subsequent investigations of the NMPS revealed a lack of an inherent responsibility system for departmental officials, a lack of transparency in decision-making and “lots” of double grantings (that is, assigning licences to two different companies for the same property) and overlaps of prospecting and/or mining rights.
The NMPS also displayed limited capabilities, such as not having a real Geographical Information System (GIS), which meant that certain rights could not be registered, and did not always pick up erroneous or wrong property descriptions, which resulted in the granting of overlapping rights. There was also no effective interface between the NMPS and other government development and planning systems.
As a result, the department decided to introduce the new system, the EMMS. The new system, set to become operational next month, will allow the online registration of prospecting and mining licence applications and the online monitoring of the approvals process. Everything will follow prescribed and standardised processes, and all applications must comply with prescribed and standardised formats, with all supporting documentation also having to be uploaded in a prescribed and standardised manner.
Although the system requires the use of prescribed formats and procedures by both applicants and DMR officials processing the applications, it does not take the decisions itself. The final decisions will be taken by people. “Someone must take responsibility,” explained the Minister. “You can’t take a system to court.”
The EMMS is Microsoft-based, and the DMR has bought its own firewall and antivirus system. Each company using the EMMS will have its own user name and password and the system has four tiers of security. Whereas the NMPS can only prioritise applications by date – all applications made on the same day being grouped together – the EMMS prioritises by both time and date. Thus, an application submitted in the morning will have priority over an application submitted later that same day – even if it is only minutes later.