Business Maverick


SA mining cadastre preferred bidder selected, announcement expected in October

SA mining cadastre preferred bidder selected, announcement expected in October
Mine workers walk through a tunnel in a gold mine in Westonaria, South Africa, on 12 October 2022. (Photo: Michele Spatari / Bloomberg via Getty Images)

The winning bidder to provide a functional mining cadastre for South Africa has been selected and an announcement should be made by October once auditors have scrutinised the process. The lack of such a system is a major obstacle to investment in SA’s mining sector, especially on the exploration front, and the path to selection has been marred by many delays.

There is finally a ray of light at the end of the long tunnel in the quest for a functioning South African mining cadastre, which could potentially unlock a mother lode of investment.  

After years of needless delays that have seen a mounting backlog in applications for various mining and mineral rights, the preferred bidder has been selected and the process is now being audited for final approval by the state IT agency, Sita.   

“We’ve selected the preferred bidder, but with the process of Sita we are expected to audit the whole process. Sita has promised by the end of September to mid-October that they will give us the final report,” Jacob Mbele, the director-general in the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy (DMRE), told journalists on Tuesday on the sidelines of the Critical Minerals Africa summit in Sandton.  

It has been a long and winding road to this stage and it remains to be seen if Sita gives the selection its seal of approval. Sita scuppered the previous tendering bid for a cadastre on technical grounds, which boils down to the fact that it was conducted in a shoddy manner. But the process this time round seems to have gone far more smoothly.  

To wit, a mining cadastre is an online map portal that displays a country’s mineral wealth in a way that is easily accessible to the public. It also shows the state of play of mining and exploration rights as well as active mining operations in a country, while providing a platform for companies to apply for exploration, prospecting, mining and related rights.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Explainer: A mining cadastre and public transparency 

One example we have reported on before is that of Botswana, which transparently displays a scramble for hydrocarbons and other valuable commodities in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve.  

Botswana’s cadastre portal, as well as those used by several other African countries, is an off-the-shelf system provided by Colorado-based Trimble. In 2015, it acquired Spatial Dimension, a pioneer in such technology founded in Cape Town in 1999. This proudly South African technology underpins Trimble’s cadastre offerings, regarded as the gold standard by the mining industry. 

South Africa’s lack of one has long been seen as an obstacle to investment in the country’s mining sector, especially on the exploration front. South Africa’s share of global capital expenditure on exploration in 2022 was less than 1%, compared with more than 5% two decades ago, as application backlogs and a lack of transparency have held investment at bay.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Mantashe’s missed mining target — SA still accounts for less than 1% of global exploration spend 

In her presentation to the summit, Nolitha Fakude, the president of the Minerals Council SA, pointedly reiterated the industry’s request for a functional mining cadastre.  

On the topic of the summit, Minerals and Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe told journalists that the DMRE was crafting a “critical minerals strategy” but would not be drawn on what a policy framework might look like. He said such minerals “… are assessed on the basis of their role in the security, and in the technological and economic development of the country”. 

It will be of more than passing interest to see what minerals are considered “critical”. Manganese, coal and uranium might be among the candidates.  

Mantashe also said he would present the next Integrated Resource Plan — the country’s blueprint policy for electricity generation — to the Cabinet committee next week. So, expect news on that front soon as well.  

Ironing that out and the cadastre also clearly fall in the “critical” category. DM


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