S.Africa lifts prospecting moratorium after audit
South Africa has lifted its seven-month moratorium on applications for mine prospecting, after an audit found hundreds of violations in the licensing process, the minerals minister said Monday.
The moratorium was imposed following a series of disputes over licenses for mining, South Africa's biggest export earner, and reviewed all rights granted since 2004.
Minerals minister Susan Shabangu said her department had reviewed nearly 3,300 applications and found more than 700 environmental violations and more than 400 rights holders who had failed to start mining within the required timeframe.
The audit found 120 cases of "double granting", with more than one firm granted the same license, but she said 11 of these were of a "complex nature" and four were the subject of litigation.
The audit also found roughly 10 million rand ($1.5 million, one million euros) in prospecting fees were outstanding.
Many of the environmental violations were found in the eastern province of Mpumalanga, where the moratorium on new applications will remain in effect until September.
"The primary objective of the moratorium was to streamline administrative processes, determine optimal utilisation of mineral resources as well as the amount of prospecting rights that have graduated to mining rights," Shabangu told journalists.
Shabangu said an online prospecting application system would be operational from Monday in a bid to speed up the process of issuing licenses.
The system, which cost 3.4 million rands, allows applications for mining permits, prospecting rights and mining rights to be lodged and progress viewed online.
South Africa is among the world's largest producers of gold, platinum and chromium.
The mining industry brought in 241.3 billion rand in 2009 and is the economy's largest export sector.
© 2011 AFP