Civil rights group AfriForum has submitted comments on the draft Artisanal and Small-scale Mining Policy, following its gazette for public comment by government on May 5.
While the organisation considers the policy a step in the right direction, it is concerned about the policy potentially legitimising illegal mining and compromising the protection that current legislation gives to the environment and property rights.
Environmental affairs manager Lambert de Klerk says it is important to comment on these policies and other regulations to not only protect AfriForum’s members, but also the environment.
The Department of Mineral Resources and Energy states in the draft document that it has received calls to formalise and unlock the potential of the informal mining industry, since it contributes to socioeconomic development.
Government aims, with this policy, to create an enabling environment for the industry to meaningfully contribute to the mainstream economy, job creation and poverty alleviation.
In particular, the draft policy mentions that the Minister will be empowered to designate or demarcate certain areas as artisanal or small-scale mining areas, which will be informed by geological data from the Council for Geoscience and the prevalence of artisanal mining activities in a given area.
The Minister will also collaborate with the departments responsible for the environment and water to undertake feasibility studies on an identified area to determine the risks and potential impacts of mining activity before a permit is awarded.
Related to access to land, the draft policy states that meaningful consultation has to take place with landowners and lawful occupiers, as well as negotiation of compensation, resettlement or relocation.
The department intends to review the capacity of the Directorate of Small Scale Mining and re-establish the unit with a fully capacitated unit that is able to facilitate licensing and support of the artisanal mining industry.
Government says, in the document, that it acknowledges the necessity for the artisanal mining industry to comply with environmental, water use, health and safety prescripts.
In this regard, government will devise interventions to train, empower and educate artisanal miners and small-scale miners on aspects of compliance.
The draft policy also mentions that government will provide mechanisms for incentives and disincentives to artisanal mining operators to encourage compliance with environmental and other requirements.
Government says more than R70-billion in revenue, in gold alone, is lost every year owing to smuggling of the commodity.
“Illegal mining should be distinguishable from artisanal and small-scale mining by people who genuinely want to participate in the industry to improve their livelihoods, contribute to the economy and growth of the industry.”