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Key takeaways: Opening address by the Minister of Mineral Resources & Energy

7th February 2024

     

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By Andrea Cabanac - Senior Associate:  Norton Rose Fulbright South Africa Inc

The Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy, Mr Gwede Mantashe, set the scene for his opening address with reference to the theme for Mining Indaba 2024, Embracing the Power of Positive Disruption: a Bold New Future for African Mining.

Reflecting on the past year, the Minister referred to several domestic factors which made 2023 a challenging year for South Africa’s mining industry such high energy prices, high inflation, lower commodity prices, load shedding, and logistical infrastructure challenges. He also gave a breakdown of the 2000 applications received by the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy.  The DMRE granted 268 prospecting rights, 32 mining rights, 85 renewals, 184 amendments, and 190 permits.

However, investors and mining companies alike have reason to have a positive outlook by virtue of several announcements made by the Minister.

The highly anticipated online cadastral system is set to be rolled out in the next 12 months in all nine provinces of South Africa. The Minister acknowledged the delay in the rollout of this system which has been in the pipeline for several years.  Similar systems in comparative jurisdictions, namely in Namibia and in Botswana, have been considered, and a preferred bidder has been selected to implement this system. The rollout of such a system is desirable since it would make South Africa’s mineral wealth transparent, it would increase the efficiency in the processing of applications, and it would mitigate the risk of competing rights over the same land and minerals. Following the discovery of rare earth minerals such as lithium, coltan, and phosphate in the Northern Cape, the Minister encouraged exploration activities in this province in view of its mineral wealth, its large expanse, and its low population density.

The Minister announced that the Minerals Exploration Fund will be officially launched on 6 February 2024. This R500 million fund is aimed at facilitating exploration activities by emerging and developing companies.  

Following new discoveries in KwaZulu-Natal, Mpumalanga, and Limpopo, the Minister referred to the urgent need to establish South Africa’s own Critical Minerals Strategy which the DMRE intends to launch in 2024. The significance of this strategy lies in South Africa joining other developed economies such as Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom, and India, which have published their own critical minerals strategies, and ensuring that Africa, as the leading critical minerals producer in the world, benefits from critical minerals.

In regard to South Africa’s Integrated Resource Plan, the main purpose of which is to ensure security of electricity supply, it was mentioned that the Minister gazetted IRP 2023 in GN 4238 GG 49974 of 4 January 2024 for public comment and extended the public comments period by one month until 23 March 2024 to maximise public participation.

Lastly, the Minister referred to the need to support South Africa’s Just Energy Transition. He emphasised that this transition does not constitute a single transition from coal to renewables.  It entails moving from high carbon emissions to low carbon emissions through multiple pathways and a combination of innovative technologies.

It will be beneficial for South Africa’s mining industry to see the timely implementation of the announcements made by the Minister in support of gearing our mining industry to continue to be a significant global competitor.

Edited by Creamer Media Reporter

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