The long-awaited update was provided during a presentation Tuesday to the Parliamentary Mineral Resources and Energy Portfolio Committee.
“As of March 2021, the department had a backlog of 4,467 applications across all three categories of licenses – mining permits, mining rights and permit fees,” he said.
“Currently the backlog is 2,625, a reduction of 43.5% from the previous backlog report.”
It’s not comparable: in February 2021, the number stood at 5,326 – but for the DMRE, at least things are moving in the right direction.
More importantly, the DMRE abandoned the tender it issued to replace Samrad, which would have involved a completely unnecessary reinvention of the wheel when off-the-shelf cadastral systems were available.
The Minerals Council SA – the main industry grouping – has even offered to help fund such a system.
“Unsurprisingly, they need to do a complete cadastral tender overhaul,” said Paul Miller, principal at consultancy AmaranthCX. business maverick.
“It was clear that the first effort was an impending disaster…we are expected to accept that it was withdrawn due to the findings of a technical audit. Whatever the reason, an overhaul was inevitable and should be welcomed.
The department said in the presentation, “On Sita’s [State Information Technology Agency] advice, enlightened by the results of their internal and external audit process”, he had asked for the procurement process to be halted.
This raises some questions – but goes ahead: DMRE reported that it was indeed targeting an existing cadastre and said in its presentation that it is “assessing similar systems in countries that have successfully implemented a cadastre [system]”.
The presentation went on to say that it had done a benchmarking exercise with Namibia and was planning to do another in late November with Botswana.
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Director General Jacob Mbele pledged to the parliamentary portfolio committee in October that a cadastre would be acquired by the end of the fiscal year.
“After 10 years of denial, the department has accepted that a custom designed cadastral system is not viable and has committed to financially close the purchase of a standard system by the end of this fiscal year,” James Lorimer, DA MP and Shadow Minister for Minerals and Energy, said business maverick.
“The ANC has denied the reality of a broken system for years. After trying everything else first, they have now made what might be the right decision. We can only hope that the system they buy will be transparent and have a long track record of success.
“The lack of transparency has provided cover for shady dealings that have severely affected the operations and credibility of our mining licensing system,” Lorimer added.
The essential aspect of a mining cadastre is that it brings transparency to the industry. It is an online portal open to the public. It provides comprehensive geological data for a country or mining jurisdiction, provides information on mining permits that have been issued, including expiry dates, and lists available mining or prospecting rights, etc.
The backlog of applications and the absence of a transparent cadastre have highlighted the chaotic state of the DMRE while thwarting much-needed investment in the mining sector, especially on the exploration front.
South Africa’s share of global exploration spending has been below 1% for years.
The mess that is DMRE was thrown into even sharper relief when business maverick announced in October that it had launched a call for tenders for an evaluation of its data and telephony networks.
The document said the department’s systems were so outdated that it could no longer source spare parts and that it had not had managed services in nearly a decade.
Learn more in Daily Maverick: “Tender for assessment of mineral resources and energy data and telephone networks reveals that the lights may be out and no one is home”
It was also a flashing red light that the department would struggle to manage a custom-designed cadastral network. It just lacks capacity. But hopefully a working cadastral system will be up and running next year. DM/BM