9 February 2011 at 10:16 am
MiningMX, 8 February 2011
Mining companies might in future be able to apply for integrated mining permits, which would not only cover the right to mine but also indicate compliance to environmental legislation.
Mines Minister Susan Shabangu said on Tuesday talks are at an early stage with the departments of water affairs and environmental affairs to grant miners a single licence which will cover all aspects of regulatory compliance.
Shabangu made reference to this prospect when she said the granting of prospecting rights on environmentally sensitive areas was one of the issues exposed during the current audit of prospecting rights. This is taking place in conjunction with a moratorium on the acceptance of new applications.
She said the moratorium, due to be lifted in March, would stay in place for another two to three months in Mpumalanga due to a large number of unresolved environmentally-related cases.
Shabangu also warned that rights granted on sensitive areas would eventually be revoked. “It is so that those rights were granted, so we now have to address this issue,” she said. “We cannot jeopardise sensitive areas for the sake of mining.”
The audit also exposed cases where rights were granted without supportive documents, holders who could not be traced as well as instances where the “use it or lose it” rule should have been enacted.
“The moratorium indicated we should start getting tough because some people are mining illegally,” Shabangu said. She added the department was gearing up for a possible slew of litigation in instances where rights are withdrawn.
She said that where the department had discovered gross negligence on the part of officials in the granting of rights, disciplinary action had been taken.
It had also suspended some employees who might have been involved in tampering with information.
The DMR’s director general Sandile Nogxina said the longest backlogs noted during the audit were applications lodged in 2007.
“Most of these are conversion applications,” he said. He added the reason for this was the fact that old order rights holders cannot be refused a new order right, even though the new right cannot be granted due to non-compliance.
This would be one of the ambiguities to be addressed in the overhaul of the Mineral Resources and Petroleum Development Act.
YEARLY COMPLIANCE REVIEWS
Shabangu said companies would be reviewed annually on the progress they make towards reaching the targets of the revised mining charter.
“It is no use to wait until 2014 to see if we were successful or not,” she said. “(A yearly review) would help us to be organised and see where we are struggling.”