JOHANNESBURG (miningweekly.com) – Ahead of tackling policy issues, incremental ongoing effort must be prioritised to clear South Africa’s huge mineral exploration and mining rights backlog, says AmaranthCX director Paul Miller.
The backlog currently stands at more than 5 000 unprocessed exploration applications and 235 unprocessed mining right applications.
Just clearing the backlog would be a huge leap forward, says Miller, who was speaking to Mining Weekly in a Zoom interview. (Also watch attached Creamer Media video.)
“Let’s make gradual, consistent improvements. Let’s get the administration working, and then we can contest the more ideological issues around policy, separately,” says Miller.
“Right now, I’d settle for just clearing the backlog, and addressing the inefficiency in regional offices. That’s uncontested. There’s no party in South Africa that says we should have dysfunctional administration.
“The evidence is in. The Reserve Bank’s own information shows that exploration spending is collapsed. The S&P Intelligence information shows that we’ve never done worse in the two decades of their numbers.
“We have such a magnificent mining industry in South Africa and we have such a magnificent geology in South Africa that even if we achieved marginal improvement, we would have a dramatic improvement, and a real opportunity to lift our heads and get positive about our industry – if we simply had material improvements in the way we administer our existing policy,” says Miller.
He rejected the silver-bullet notion of a transparent online cadastre being the panacea.
“We could make dramatic improvements not by looking for some silver-bullet solution. You first need a culture change which asks ‘what can we do to welcome investors’. If they make that change, then officials can go and look at multiple countries around the world and they can pick and choose solutions that they like for us, and obviously one of those solutions would have to include a transparent online cadastre. Other things would be a single one-stop shop,” he says.
The use-it-or-lose-it principle would also have to be vastly improved: “We’ve got to turn prospecting rights over, we’ve got to curate all the knowledge that prospecting develops, we’ve got to hold applicants responsible for their obligations, so when you get a prospecting right, you’ve actually got to do the work. You’ve got to generate knowledge and you've got to submit that knowledge back into a central repository, so that the next time someone looks at the same property, there’s an accumulative improvement in what we know about the geological endowment of South Africa.
“All these things are not ideologically contested. All of them will make gradual improvements, and we can start seeing them pretty quickly. It’s not hard to do that and hopefully we can go forward with that.
“It’s very positive that Minerals Council South Africa has come out in favour of exploration. We have this wonderful body of skills and knowledge and academic institutions. So there is a positive story deep in here to tell, but first we need some sort of culture change to show that investors are welcome in South Africa again,” Miller contends.
"This backlog of applications is the crisis that we can use to try and make positive improvements. If we cleared this backlog in a year or two, it would make a dramatic difference," he adds.