SA fails to process any of 2,525 mining permits for 23/24

Gwede Mantashe, mines and energy minister, South Africa

THE backlog of mining permits in South Africa has worsened as some 2,525 new applications submitted in the government’s financial year ended February 29 had not been processed.

This emerged in a parliamentary exchange in December in which mines and energy minister Gwede Mantashe was responding to questions by Christian Msimang, a member of the IFP, according to a report by the Daily Maverick.

The mounting dysfunction at the department was thrown into sharp relief in February 2021, when it revealed that the backlog for mining permits, mining rights and permit rights had reached “an eye-watering” 5,326, the Daily Maverick said.

But if, as at December 2023, none of the 2,525 applications received in the financial year had been finalised, the logjam is growing, the publication said.

“What we know is that in February 2021 the [mineral resources and energy] department disclosed to Parliament that it had a backlog of 5,326 mining rights, prospecting rights and mining permit applications, renewals and cessions,” said Paul Miller director of consultancy AmaranthCX.

“Two-and-a-half years later we learned that the like-for-like backlog was 4,486. This suggested that the backlog would take 16 years to clear at the then processing rates.

“We now learn that in the 10 months to December 2023, 2,525 ‘mining licences’ applications were received, with not even one being finalised in the period. Sixteen years now look ambitious,” said Miller.

South Africa is waiting on a new mining cadastre in order to streamline and improve the permitting process for mineral development. Mantashe said last year the winning bidder to implement the cadastre would be announced before the end of October.

Mantashe said his department had “done its part of the job” by selecting its preferred bidder to develop the cadastre. The ball was in the court of the State IT Agency (SITA) which must audit the department’s decision before a formal announcement can be made. “We are hoping before end-October,” Mantashe said.