Minister of Mineral Resources Gwede Mantashe has come out in support of informal miners, saying legalising “Zama-Zamas” would protect the productivity of the mining industry.
This comes on the back of the Department’s decision to hand artisanal and illegal miners in Kimberley with mining permits on Thursday.
Zama-Zamas are not recognised by the law and regarded as illegal since they work independent of mining houses, using their own resources and often targeting abandoned shafts across the country.
At times their activities have led to deadly underground accidents, turf wars, as well as clashes with law enforcement authorities.
Delivering his department’s budget vote speech in the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) on Thursday, Mantashe said that, along with gazetting the Mining Charter, enacting the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Amendment Bill, which has been tabled before the NCOP, will go a long way in contributing to policy and regulatory certainty.
“Such certainty will lead to increased confidence in our mining sector, resulting in growth, transformation and competitiveness … making SA an investment destination of choice for mining and upstream petroleum,” he said.
The issuing of mining rights, as well as the proper processing of applications for mining licences, was already among the department’s key priorities, said Mantashe. A preliminary internal investigation showed that the backlog for new mineral right applications stretched as far back as 2012, while applications for the renewal of prospecting right applications went back to 2010.
Mantashe sought to emphasise that legalising Zama-Zamas would help protect the sector and the miners. “Illegal mining is a criminal activity, that’s why we are experimenting with licensing the ‘Zama-Zamas’, so that what they mine should go back into to the formal economy and contribute to the economy.
Mantashe again pledged to convene a summit once consultations on the contentious Mining Charter have been completed. He said the government aimed to finalise and gazette the revised charter within the coming weeks, after considering the inputs and concerns from stakeholders across the country.