Corruption is behind the backlog in the issuing of mining rights, and newly-appointed mining minister Gwede Mantashe has vowed to uproot it, Fin24 reported. Mantashe tabled his department's budget in Parliament on Tuesday. It was his maiden address to the House.
He reportedly said that corruption needed to be "aggressively and unashamedly" stamped out, where mining licenses were being issued to those who could pay for them. According to a preliminary investigation, there were "no satisfactory" reasons given when applications for mining rights were declined, Mantashe told MPs.
He reportedly added that the process of applying for mining rights was "fraught with greater challenges and laced with corruption".
In some regional offices, the backlog in processing mining rights applications goes back as far as 2012, he reportedly said, and the backlog in renewal applications in some cases stretched back to 2010.
"The implication of unprocessed renewal applications is that it blocks any other party from applying for mineral right in that area. No satisfactory reasons were advanced as to why we have these backlogs.
"The word in the corridors is that applications from 'known' or 'paying' applicants are prioritised," Mantashe reportedly said.
Meanwhile, applications for shale-gas exploration are to be fast-tracked, he said. According to Eyewitness News (EWN), Mantashe said the department had received three shale-gas exploration rights applications so far.
He reportedly said there is about 205 trillion cubic feet of shale gas that is "technically recoverable" by fracking in the Karoo.
"To that end, we intend to move with speed and to fast-track the finalisation of Exploration Rights applications so that South Africa can maximise its chances of reaping the benefits from shale gas exploration and exploitation," he said.
Mantashe also promised to take steps to curb illegal mining, The Citizen reported.
He reportedly said he would discuss the issue with the police minister.
Illegal mining is a serious challenge and a danger to society. It places the health and safety of communities at risks, particularly where public infrastructure is threatened by its activities. Coupled with the challenge of illegal mining is the matter of synthetics that is threatening the diamond sector. We will meet with the industry to solicit its views on this matter. As we explore ways to regulate artisanal mining as means to enable ordinary South Africans to participate in mining, we intend having discussions with the minister of police on strengthening approaches to dealing with the scourge of illegal mining."