Posted on: February 10, 2011 Posted by: Diane Swarts Comments: 0

A six month moratorium on SA mining rights applications lifts at the end of March 2011, with rollout of a new health, safety, environment and mining rights data system.

The SA Department of Mineral Resources (DMR) online and traceable application and compliance system, automates elements of mining health and safety obligations, environmental protection and inter-departmental data.

The system overhaul had started as a mining health and safety enforcement tool, but was extended to ensure mining rights accountability, transparency, and response efficiency, following revelation of a mining rights data chaos last year.

The new system has 264 layers, compared to the former system, named NMPS, that had a single layer. DMR data now contains information from other government planning systems, including environmentally sensitive areas, protected areas, legal Deeds, township development areas, and water pans.

“This will eliminate the current challenge where mining rights are granted over environmentally sensitive areas,” said DMR minister Susan Shabangu at a mining investment conference, Mining Indaba, in Cape Town in February 2011.

The battery of new measures took a cue from an assessment of the Mining Charter, that had confirmed some internal DMR findings relating to system problems.

Shabangu had last year ordered director general Adv Sandile Nogxina to investigate several problems raised by the media and critics. The DG had conducted ‘a whirlwind tour of DMR regional offices’ in February last year and prioritised action.

Mining rights loopholes

Transparency would ‘root out any prospect of corruption in the system’. Turnaround time for mining rights applications was to be reduced from 12 months to six months, while prospecting rights were to reduce from six months to three.

Limited capabilities of the NMPS system had “lacked proper GIS capability, leading to un registrable rights and misalignment when provincial boundaries change.” There was a “lack of proper interface between NMPS and other planning and development systems, and errors or wrong property descriptions by consultants leading to overlaps.”

Former mining rights corruption loopholes and issues included absence of inherent accountability system for officials involved in processing applications and administering rights.”

Already in October 2009, minister Shabangu had ”commenced a process of developing an integrated electronic system for managing the mine health and safety portfolio.”

The system now allows “integrated management of information and improved management of mine health and safety.”

DMR had installed the new electronic management system, starting with Mineral Regulation branch, migrating NMPS data to a new platform.

This work “is far advanced”, and some new applications would entail “early warnings for non compliance with undertakings and commitments made by applicants, effective time and task management on the part of officials, limited human tampering and transparency”.

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