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MINING MOVEMENTS

Cadastre evaluation concluded, as final stage to be finalised – Sita

Cadastre evaluation concluded, as final stage to be finalised – Sita
Coal at the Mafube open-cast coal mine, operated by Exxaro Resources. (Photo: Waldo Swiegers / Bloomberg via Getty Images)

State IT agency Sita has largely confirmed Minerals and Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe’s comments on 18 January that the selection of the winning bidder for the long-awaited mining cadastre tender will be announced soon. Though not quite the done deal that Mantashe implied, final stages should be complete early during the week of 22 January 2024.

It’s an announcement that the mining industry, NGOs and other interested parties have been waiting for with bated breath.

Mantashe – while also frankly contradicting a parliamentary reply he made last month about the finalisation of mining applications – said on Radio 702 on Thursday that the announcement was imminent, and could even be made that week

It’s actually not quite a done deal but it’s pretty close, according to Sita, which is responsible for auditing the process.

“The evaluation of this tender has been concluded and the adjudication is now in progress. Once completed, the client department will consider the report and the recommendations thereof before announcing their decision,” Sita said in an emailed response to Daily Maverick’s queries on the matter.

“In essence, one stage of the process has been concluded and the remaining one is expected to be finalised early next week. We are doing everything possible to ensure that we conclude on this transaction with speed while maintaining required standards and ensuring the integrity of our processes.”

In August last year, the DMRE said it had selected the preferred bidder to replace its useless Samrad system for processing applications, and an announcement was expected in October.

Mineral Resources and Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe. (Photo: Leila Dougan)

Preferred bidder dragged on

Yet it has dragged on, raising concerns that the audit was perhaps hitting some potholes. 

“We appreciate the impact this lengthy process has had on the stakeholders – we have reasons to believe the matter will be settled in the coming week,” Sita said. 

Sita’s confirmation will allay industry concerns that Mantashe was shooting from the hip, as he has been wont to do in the past. 

Read more in Daily Maverick: Recession Watch — SA mining output soars 6.8% y/y in November, reducing downturn odds

The procurement of a proper cadastral system is seen as crucial to clearing up the backlog of mining applications of various stripes which is thwarting investment in the sector. Mired in opacity, the applications process is widely regarded by the industry as dysfunctional and a cover for corruption and incompetence. 

A cadastral system 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 and allows applications for such rights to easily be made.

Neighbouring Botswana and Namibia are among the African countries that have one, and the DMRE and Mantashe have said that they have examined their platforms. 

Raising hope?

This has raised some hope in the industry that the DMRE has selected the Trimble/Spatial Dimensions portal they use, a ready-made and off-the-shelf offering widely regarded as the gold standard. But the DMRE’s seeming aversion to transparency has tempered such hankering.

Read more in Daily Maverick: DMRE somewhat clarifies mining application mess, says target is to finalise over 2,400 this year

The timing is also of interest. The Investing in African Mining Indaba kicks off early next month in Cape Town, and Mantashe does not want to have to explain to delegates once again that a cadastre is still in the process of being procured.

Regardless, no magic wand is about to be waved to clear up the application shambles. It will take months, if not longer, to get such a system up and running.

But… backlog

Mantashe said on Thursday that the backlog now stood at around 3,000, from 5,000 three years ago, while simultaneously contradicting a reply he made to a parliamentary question in December that none of the 2,525 applications received up to that point in this financial year had been finalised.  

“We’ve processed and finalised 674 of those,” the minister said. “Six hundred and seventy-four is not nil.”

Mantashe was seemingly oblivious to the fact that he was the source of the assertion in December that “nil” had been finalised

This all underscores the urgent need for a functional cadastre. DM

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