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New SA Mining Map attempts to fill information vacuum

Updated: Aug 8, 2023

14 March 2023

AmaranthCX has released a comprehensive online South African mining map:

  • 778 mines, 376 quarries and 279 other mineral properties indicated across all commodities;

  • 933 mine and project tenement areas mapped out; and

  • served up, by subscription, via a web a browser on any device, with no third party software required.

The map also has a choice of base layers - either maps or satellite photographs - with the farm boundaries and farm portion boundaries overlayed and environmentally protected areas clearly indicated. There is also some simplified geology too, in particular the Coal Fields and the Bushveld Complex. The map will be updated from time to time as new information comes to light.

It is standard practice, in all competitive mining jurisdictions, for the state to provide easy access for all stakeholders to what is called a mining cadastre. A mining cadastre is a system for the management of mining and prospecting rights, which shines a light on government processes and applies administrative rules in a fair and objective way, limiting official discretion and the abuse that can stem from it.

In South Africa, the administration of mining and prospecting rights is in a state of dysfunction, characterised by multi-year backlogs, incompetence, alleged corruption, official overreach and endless litigation, as mining and exploration companies have to deal with politically driven decision making and administrative chaos in the department. Despite submissions being electronic, in the sense that documents are uploaded through the department's existing Samrad system, behind the scenes all processes are paper-based with access to the ESRI spatial information database of accepted, granted and executed prospecting and mining rights being highly restricted, even within the department.

Unlike almost all competing mining jurisdictions, no public access is allowed to this detailed geo-spatial data, except through the tedious process of making a separate paper-based Promotion of Access to Information Act application per enquiry, on payment of a fee, in person, at the department's relevant regional office. It can then take months for the applicant to get the data, if at all. Litigation must often be threatened to drive the process to completion.

The impact of this dysfunction is clear, not only in perception surveys like the Fraser Institute’s Annual Survey of Mining and Exploration Companies or the Mining Journal Intelligence World Risk Report 2022 (feat. MineHutte ratings), but also in the exploration budget numbers collected by S&P Capital IQ in their World Exploration Trends 2022 Report.

By way of example Minister Gwede Mantashe set a target, in February 2019, to attract 5% of global exploration budget spend in 3 to 5 years. Yet by 2022 South Africa had attracted just 0.8% (2021: 0.76%), down more than 20% since the target was set. And since this is a relative measure, no, the Covid pandemic cannot be blamed.

The SA Reserves Bank's Quarterly Bulletin also shows that as at 2021 the Gross Fixed Capital Formation (Investment) in South African Mineral Evaluation & Exploration was at is lowest level since the time series began in 1960. Now just R1.67bn in the year.

A mining cadastre generally consists of two parts.

Firstly, a work flow management system to handle transactions like applications, appeals, report submissions and payments - and which tracks applications through the system, applies guardrails and guidelines for officials and allows applicants to track their transaction through the process. Importantly it also prevents queue jumping and other manipulations of the process.

Secondly, a mining cadastre requires the presentation of geo-spatial data - maps - where stakeholders can easily see who has what prospecting or mining rights, for which minerals, exactly where, and for how long. This information is vital not only for potential investors, but also for rural communities, land owners, non-mining project developers and activists of all kinds.

In particular, those entrepreneurs rushing to develop wind and solar farms to help get South Africa out of its self-inflicted energy crisis, need access to a mining cadastre's geo-spatial data to be able to select available development land.

It is this geo-spatial data information vacuum that the SA Mining Map attempts to address.

The information used in the map has been painstakingly gleaned from mainly public sources:

  • the diminishing pool of mining companies that have stock exchange disclosure requirements;

  • deep googling for Environmental Impact Assessment documents;

  • Court proceedings;

  • those few unlisted mining companies that publish their Social & Labour Plans online; and

  • from the commendably transparent South African Heritage Resource Agency, which publishes the archaeological and paleontological specialist studies related to new mining developments.

This data is published by neither the Department of Mineral Resources & Energy nor the Minerals Council of South Africa. Incumbent major miners are not particularly supportive of transparency either - especially if an individual mineral property is not material to their overall financial results, regardless of how material it may be on other measures, to other stakeholders.

The mapped information is almost certainly not 100% complete, and there appears no reliable way to determine the expiry date of a prospecting right or mining right from public information. This is, in part, because most public information that does exist relates to the consultation processes after an application for a prospecting right or mining right is accepted, but before it is eventually granted or rejected.

Here is video demonstration of the map.

The map is available for subscription here.

Payment is via credit or debit card only.

Executives at large corporations: it is not our policy to freely donate hours of our time and much of our good humour to fulfilling the administrative requirements of your employers' one-size-fits-all vendor registration process, for what is a modest 12-month subscription. Furthermore, thank you, but no thank you, for the invitation to sit through a 2 hour training program so that we can do your work uploading data and documents into your labyrinthic procurement system. We would far rather use the time to continue to improve the map. If you would like to subscribe please use your corporate credit card and claim it as an expense - if you must, clear it with your boss first, or better still get them to use their credit card. VAT invoices will be provided.

Non-profits and bona fide journalists with a interest in mining and mining regulation will be provided with free access, for a limited time, on request.

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