Inflexible mining legislation that does not differentiate between small- to medium-sized surface mining operations and larger, often underground, mining operations could cause the small surface mining sector to diminish, says surface mining association Aspasa director Nico Pienaar.
“Mines that often mine commodities of a lower value are covered by the same rules and legislation for larger mines that mine minerals of greater value,” he notes, adding that this is a problem, as it fails to take into account crucial differences between the different types of mining.
Moreover, smaller opencast mines, many of which are represented by Aspasa, produce minerals that are mainly used domestically.
While there are larger surface mining operations that focus on commodities of greater value in great volumes, these minerals are also generally exported.
High-value minerals mined underground are also mainly exported. Minerals mined underground will usually be of a high value, as much effort is put into extracting small quantities of high-value minerals from great numbers of rock tonnages.
The exports of high-value minerals from larger mines are used as a form of “currency”, owing to their high value, says Pienaar.
He emphasises that the sale of these high-value minerals allows larger mining companies to afford expensive consultants to advise them on legislative issues and compliance. He states that, since smaller mines do not export high-value minerals, they are unable to afford expensive consultants.
Aspasa does a lot of consulting work such as this for smaller surface miners.
Pienaar says mining legislation focuses on larger underground mines and, therefore, includes strategies relevant to these mines. Aspasa is aiming to present issues such as the exclusion of smaller miners to regulators, such as the Department of Mineral Resources, this year to ensure that they also benefit from legislation.
Pienaar also emphasises the importance of re-examining legislation in relation to health and safety regulations, as there are significant differences between health and safety factors in underground mines and surface mines.
“Revised legislation should stimulate the industry and ensure that rules and legislation are complied with, but in a practical way,” he concludes.