Business Maverick


DMRE says process to procure mining cadastre this financial year remains ‘on track’

DMRE says process to procure mining cadastre this financial year remains ‘on track’
Workers at the control centre at the South Deep gold mine on 12 October 2022, west of Johannesburg in Gauteng. (Photo: Felix Dlangamandla / Daily Maverick)

The Department of Mineral Resources and Energy (DMRE) says its process to procure a functional mining cadastre to replace its useless Samrad system for mining rights and related applications by the end of this financial year remains ‘on track’. That presumably means there should be an announcement by the end of March.

The DMRE confirmed the process was “on track” in response to emailed queries from Business Maverick. In October last year, DMRE director-general Jacob Mbele made a commitment that a cadastre would be procured by the end of the financial year, which is 31 March. 

A mining cadastre is an online portal that allows the public easy access to view existing mining rights, exploration permits and related things, as well as the known geological features of a mining jurisdiction. It also allows companies to apply for various mining, exploration and prospecting rights while viewing what is already in play and what companies are involved. 

In short, it brings transparency to the sector, serving the interests of all stakeholders.

After numerous delays and a farcical attempt to tender for a new system – when proven, off-the-shelf cadastre portals favoured by the industry and used by several other African countries are readily available – the DMRE abandoned its bid to reinvent the cadastre wheel. 

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The DMRE said late last year that it was “benchmarking similar systems in countries that have successfully implemented a cadastral”, notably Botswana and Namibia. Both countries use an off-the-shelf system provided by Colorado-based Trimble.

In 2015, Trimble acquired Spatial Dimension. Founded in Cape Town in 1999 – and so proudly South African – this unit has been at the forefront of Trimble’s cadastre offerings and is seen as the gold standard by the mining industry. 

The Botswana cadastre and portal that uses this technology stands in transparent contrast to Samrad, revealing among other things a scramble for hydrocarbon and other resources in the massive and ecologically sensitive Central Kalahari Game Reserve. 

Read more in Daily Maverick:Botswana’s mining cadastre reveals hydrocarbon scramble…” 

So, replacing Samrad by the end of March with Trimble’s or a similar system is crucial for the DMRE’s credibility, something it has been notably lacking in. 

Samrad’s woes have been legendary and are seen as a key obstacle to investment in South Africa’s mining sector. 

The DMRE revealed in February 2021 that the Samrad logjam for various kinds of mining applications had topped 5,000. In November 2022, it said that had been reduced to 2,625. 

Business Maverick revealed earlier this year that Samrad was closed for business over the Christmas period, a curious state of affairs for an online portal. 

Read more in Daily Maverick:After the Bell: Botswana transparently displays what SA’s DMRE may reluctantly provide” 

In response to our queries on that matter, the DMRE said: 

“Samrad was closed because the department was closed for business during that period, and no official would have been able to attend to lodged applications.” 

That does beg the question why applications could not be lodged and subsequently attended to – that is one of the advantages of an online system.

“Only the submission is online, thereafter all internal processes are paper-based. Why submissions can’t be made and then await the return of staff in a time-stamped queue is a mystery,” Paul Miller, director of mining consultancy AmaranthCX, told Business Maverick.

The “paper-based” processes are part of the problem, with numerous industry reports of shortages in DMRE regional offices of printers, printing toner and paper. It’s all very 20th century in 2023. 

“For many years the department, and a succession of ANC ministers, claimed their mineral rights application system was not only functional but world standard, despite a wealth of evidence that it was not,” said James Lorimer, a DA member of Parliament and the party’s shadow minister for mineral resources. 

“Finally, they have made two important admissions: that Samrad doesn’t work, and that we need an off-the-shelf system rather than a custom-designed one. We can only hope the system they buy has a proven track record and that they meet their own deadline of concluding the deal.” 

The public will know soon enough if that deadline is met. DM/BM


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