The Minister of Mineral Resources spoke about the Departments of Mineral Resources, Environmental Affairs and Water and Sanitation working together to implement the One Environmental system in the application process to streamline the licensing processes for mining, environmental authorisations and water use. The South African Mineral Resources Administration (SAMRAD) system aimed to on the measures to improve turnaround times for applications for prospecting and mining licences.
The Department of Mineral Resources briefing gave insight into the legislative framework; the SAMRAD application process and its timeframes. It noted that one of the requirements for submitting an application on the system is obtaining an environmental authorisation.
Members asked about the feedback from the public using the SAMRAD system; why it was impossible to see all rights applied for, pending or issued on the system; about the need for an environmental authorisation before a mining licence can be granted; if applications can be launched only electronically; how far DMR was with the one stop shop, for more information about appeals; the possible reasons for the rejection of an application; and were the challenges listed in the presentation, the only ones that led to litigation. Members were concerned that the shift to an IT system may be a disadvantage to those in rural areas in terms of access and computer literacy; that the location of the regional offices is a problem for rural dwellers; about the barriers to entry encountered by the small scale miner which was one of the reasons for illegal mining. They asked what DMR was doing to help people who had a licence but encountered objections from the municipality; how much did the environmental compliance requirement from an environmental assessment practitioner cost, if the workshops to educate people on the SAMRAD system catered for rural communities. Members asked if DMR had plans to enable the public to see the applications and issued licences on SAMRAD. DMR was encouraged to motivate for more money to improve the system to allow this. The Committee requested a further presentation that better showed the practical application of the system.
Minister’s opening remarks
Mr Mosebenzi Zwane, Minister of Mineral Resources, thanked the Committee for the opportunity to engage with them on the measures to improve turnaround times for the applications for prospecting and mining licences as administered by the South African Mineral Resources Administration (SAMRAD) system. The Mineral Resources and Petroleum Development Act of 2002 as amended has placed an administrative role on the Department to adjudicate and process applications for prospecting and mining rights with the aim of transforming the mineral and mining sector in line with the Constitution. In the processing of applications for licence, the Department had identified gaps and had introduced the South African Mineral Resources Administration (SAMRAD) system which is intended to ensure transparency and efficiency and there have been noticeable improvements. However this system has its own challenges which are being addressed.
Government promulgated the National Environmental Management Act to provide for cooperative and environmental governance by establishing principles for decision making on matters affecting the environment. This is known as the One Environment system. Both the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act (MPRDA) and National Environmental Management Act (NEMA) seek to effectively address all mining and environmental issues with one of the key objectives to give effect to Section 24 of the Constitution. The DMR and the Departments of Environmental Affairs and Water and Sanitation are working together to implement the One Environmental system in the application process to streamline the licensing processes for mining, environmental authorisations and water use. There is room for improvement in the licencing process and, despite the slow growth of the economy recorded in 2016, there has been a significant opening of mines and creation of jobs for people. In his closing remarks, he spoke about his usual practice of leaving the Committee after his opening remarks. He stated it was not his intention to always leave and it should not been seen as a disrespect to the Committee. It is as a result of the cabinet meetings he has to attend on Wednesdays which is also the Committee meeting day.
Mining Licencing turnaround times: Department of Mineral Resources (DMR) briefing
Ms Rebone Nkambule, Chief Director: Mineral Regulation DMR, provided insight into the legislative framework of the MPRDA and the legal nature of rights issued in terms of it. An attempt has been made to link the application process with the NEMA process. Applications are triggered by the MPRDA and lodged electronically on SAMRAD. Section 16 and 22 of the Act regulate the application process and rejections take place within 14 days of receipt of the application. The second phase of the application process is the adjudication which is done internally within the Department. It takes 120 days to approve the Social and Labour Plan and Mine Works Programme. The third phase in the application process is the granting or refusing of the licence application. This is governed by the granting criteria in section 17 and 23 of the Act. The last phase of the application deals with the appeals. There are no subsequent rights to be considered while there are appeals pending.
The application process requires DMR to align its timeframes in an attempt to increase efficiency and timeous processing of environmental authorisation (EA) applications. Depending on the activities to be undertaken, the applicant can be required to submit either a Basic Assessment report or a Scoping. For the Basic Assessment report, an Environmental Assessment Practitioner (EAP) is required to submit the Basic Assessment Report within 90 days from date of lodgement of the application. The Department should make a decision within 107 days from date of lodgement. The EAP can request a 50 day extension, if the circumstances warrant this. The total application period will be 247 days excluding public holidays and days that fall between 15 December and 05 January (see document).
For a Scoping process and an environmental impact assessment (EIA), the EAP has 44 days to submit a scoping report from the date of lodgement of an application and DMR evaluates the scoping within 43 days and then accepts scoping. The EAP submits the EIA/ Environment Management Plan (EMP) within 106 days from the date of acceptance of scoping. The EIA/EMP is expected to be processed by the Department within 107 days with a possibility of 50 days extension if the circumstances warrant this.
SAMRAD is still the only source for lodging and receiving applications within the Department. It was developed to address challenges pertaining to documents being misplaced, contestations regarding order of receipt and processing of applications, which often led to litigation. SAMRAD is made of three interlinked components:
• Public viewer Portal – for lodgement of applications
• GIS – for land selection
• Workflow system – for processing and adjudication of applications.
Some measures have been put in place to improve the turnaround times in the application process. Among these is the investment one stop shop, capacity building workshops on the application process, the One Environmental system and continuous improvement of the legislation framework. The system is being upgraded and will provide analytics capability and management of revenue, development of integrated licencing system accessible on the web, mobile and offline platform with capability of managing applications, storing and maintaining up to date mining company information and reporting production, labour statistics and compliance by mines. It will also reprioritise capacity within the Department and update and do a data clean-up of all outstanding and historic records on the SAMRAD GIS platform.
Mr J Lorimer (DA) talked about the feedback he had received from people using the SAMRAD system. People complained about completing a rights application without doing it on paper. He also felt the way the system is conceived looks problematic. In his opinion, the system raises doubt in people’s mind and it is open to perceptions of corruption. He asked why it was impossible to see all rights issued or applied for on the system.
Mr H Schmidt (DA) was not impressed that it was impossible to see all rights issued or pending in the system. He talked about the need for an environmental authorisation before a mining licence can be granted. He wanted to know if the licences granted require environmental authorisation. He asked if applications are launched only electronically with the system. On the one stop shop, he wanted to know how far DMR had gone. He also requested more information on appeals.
Ms V Nyambi (ANC) wanted to know the possible reasons for the rejection of an application.
Mr N Mandela (ANC) differed with Mr Lorimer about the feedback received on using the system. He however expressed his reservation on the shift to an IT only system and was of the opinion this may be a disadvantage to the illiterate populace and those in rural areas. He asked DMR how such people would have access to the system. On the challenges indicated in the presentation, he asked if those challenges were the only ones that led to litigation. On litigation, he asked what DMR was doing to help people who had right licences approved at the inter-ministerial level but have objections from the municipalities.
Mr David Msiza, Acting DMR Director General, noted that the system had witnessed improvements. On the allegations of corruption, the system is being worked up to have an integrated system. On the one stop shop, the President established the inter-ministerial committee on investment to unlock the potential of investment within the economy. A couple of projects have been identified and DMR has established two projects. On the One Environmental system, there were certain challenges which were a hindrance to the issuance of mining rights hence the three departments came together with the necessary legislation to unblock the challenges.
Ms Nkambule noted that efforts were being put in place to ensure the system improves. Talking about the availability or non-availability of rights, she replied that regional managers must ensure that there is no other application on the system with respect to the right being applied for, before an application is accepted. This is to reduce the possibility of litigation. She noted that it was impossible for her or any DMR staff to see what is happening with an application on the system. Measures have been put in place to address the challenge that might arise from non-access to the SAMRAD system hence there is still a chance to allow manual lodgement of applications. The One Environmental system seeks to achieve streamlining of the internal process to reduce the chances of litigation. In terms of the transitional arrangements, the Department of Environmental Affairs is responsible for environmental authorisations and applications received before 8 December 2014. Those received thereafter will be dealt with as needing environmental authorisations. On appeals, there can be an appeal or an objection depending on the decision taken. On loopholes, she noted this was a harsh reality and it is a concern for government as this sidetracks the objectives of the MPRDA.
Mr Schmidt asked if all current applications require an environmental authorisation before being submitted. He wanted more clarity on appeals about mining rights.
Mr Lorimer asked why there were still paper applications as this defeats the purpose of SAMRAD. He asked if there were any applications which were completely done online. He wanted an explanation why it was impossible to publicly see what rights were applied for online.
Ms Nkambule replied on the question about appeals saying only a court can set aside any mining right which is awarded. She also talked about applications lodged before and post December 8 2014. Every application submitted after 8 December 2014 requires an environmental authorisation. On why the public cannot view who owns what rights, she said the system was originally not designed for that.
The Chairperson talked about the lodging of applications with the regional managers. In his opinion, the geographical location of the regional offices is a problem for the large rural communities because a lot of the rural dwellers have to travel long distances to apply for a mining licence. He wanted an explanation on the environmental compliance requirement with regards to the environmental assessment practitioner, what was the cost of this? The Chairperson would prefer that DMR gives a format of the system in the presentation so that the Committee can understand better how it works. He asked how long it takes to consider the first application in the system. He spoke on the need for clarity on the workshops carried out to educate people about the SAMRAD system. He asked to what extent these workshops work for people in rural communities.
Mr Lorimer agreed with the Chairperson on the need for a presentation on how the SAMRAD system works. He also spoke about the barriers to entry encountered by the small scale miner and this was one of the reasons for illegal mining. On the public portal being able to see what was happening in the system, he asked if there was a timeline to make this operational.
Mr Schmidt asked about the one stop shop.
Mr Msiza replied about the accessibility to the regional offices by rural dwellers, noting there is a process which is being considered to ensure more accessibility to the regional offices. On the one stop shop, he stated it was an initiative of the government to address certain infrastructural barriers in the mining and petroleum sector.
On possible reasons for the rejection of an application, Ms Nkambule replied that this was possible if there is an existing application for the same property and it was sometimes as a result of an incomplete document that is required. She emphasised the system is designed to be a model to fit into the law and not a replacement for the law.
Ms Seipati Dhlamini, DMR Deputy Director General: Mineral Regulation, responded to the questions about timelines to enable the public to see all rights issued or applied for on the SAMRAD system. She said that that was a challenge which DMR was looking into. She also spoke about the need for more money to improve the system.
The Chairperson in his closing remarks noted that the Committee will communicate with DMR when it is ready to receive the presentation on the practical application of the system. He encouraged the Department to motivate the Committee on the need for more money to improve the system. On the One Environmental system, he spoke of the need to ensure that the system is not enriching a few individuals at the expense of the people.
Mr Mandela brought to the notice of the Committee the details of media person who disrespected Committee staff and swore at them. He voiced his displeasure and noted the Committee members would not take this lightly. He asked the Committee Chairperson to address the matter.
The Chairperson noted his remark and promised to look into it.
The meeting was adjourned.
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