Mining exploration plan may be complete, but this is the ‘nightmare’ that keeps Mantashe up

Mineral Resources and Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe.

A long-awaited exploration strategy for the mining sector has been gazetted but the development of a critical cadastre system remains a “nightmare” for the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy, Minister Gwede Mantashe has said.

A transparent online cadastre system is considered key if any exploration strategy is to work. A cadastre is a public portal that contains comprehensive geological data about mining jurisdictions, which effectively allows potential investors and interested parties to get clear sight of a record of interests in land and what mining rights are held by whom. South Africa is the only major mining jurisdiction in Africa that does not have such a system.

Speaking at Platinum Group Metals (PGM) Industry Day on Wednesday, Mantashe confirmed the long-awaited exploration strategy has been gazetted. The news comes as a surprise to much of the mining industry, which has not yet had sight of the anxiously awaited plan – considered critical to attract much-needed exploration investment in South Africa’s mineral resources.

There has, however, been concern that the strategy has been closely developed between the department, the Minerals Council South Africa and the Council for Geoscience; and that broader industry consultation has been lacking.

Speaking to Fin24, Mantashe said the department had worked with the mining sector, but there is room for interested parties to come forward and raise issues. “It’s about how best can we … attract investment into exploration, and I think the strategy will fulfil that responsibility. Then we’ll move to the next phase, where … we’ll talk about people interested in exploration and how to invest.”

Mantashe, however, conceded this remained a problem. “We need it, it is urgent,” he said. “It is my nightmare. I don’t sleep when I think of it because it makes the industry look very mediocre.”

He said government had approached Sentech, a state-owned service provider, for the ICT infrastructure. This has been approved but is likely to face a long process ahead.

Seemingly half-joking, Mantashe told delegates at the event he had offered outgoing Anglo American CEO Mark Cutifani the job of promoting exploration in South Africa “for a reduced fee”.

He said: “when you retire you better keep yourself active – you live longer”.