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AmaranthCX’s map fills DMRE’s information vacuum

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In picture is OMV/Raubex Group’s Stilfontein quarry in South Africa. The operation is included in AmaranthCX’s comprehensive map which lists 778 mines in South Africa, 376 quarries and 279 other mineral properties indicated across all commodities. There are also 933 mine and project tenement areas mapped out. The map can be accessed online by subscription via a web browser on any device, with no third-party software required. Image credit: AmaranthCX

AmaranthCX’s map fills DMRE’s information vacuum  

AmaranthCX and its technology partner 1Map have collaborated to publish a comprehensive, online South African Mining Map, something the South African Department of Mineral Resources and Energy (DMRE) has not been able to do since 2004.

One of the objectives of publishing the map is to attempt to fill the information vacuum enabled by the DMRE. This information vacuum has been in place since the introduction of the current mining and prospecting rights regime in 2004 and the introduction of the failed SAMRAD system in about 2010. The consequences for South African mining generally, and mineral exploration in particular have been stark.

The map replaces earlier single commodity specific maps released by AmaranthCX and appears to be a first effort in South Africa to publish an electronic all commodity map.

According to Paul Miller, Director at AmaranthCX the comprehensive map lists 778 mines in South Africa, 376 quarries and 279 other mineral properties indicated across all commodities. “There are also 933 mine and project tenement areas mapped out. The map can be accessed online by subscription via a web browser on any device, with no third-party software required,” says Miller.

The map has a choice of base layers – either maps or satellite photographs – with the farm boundaries and farm portion boundaries overlayed and environmentally protected areas clearly indicated. There is also some simplified geology too, in particular the Coal Fields and the Bushveld Complex. Miller says that the map will be updated from time to time as new information comes to light.

Standard practice to have cadastre (AmaranthCX’s map fills DMRE’s information vacuum)

It is standard practice, in all competitive mining jurisdictions, for the state to provide easy access for all stakeholders to what is called a mining cadastre. A mining cadastre is a system for the management of mining and prospecting rights, which shines a light on government processes and applies administrative rules in a fair and objective way, limiting official discretion and the abuse that can stem from it.

Miller says that in South Africa, the administration of mining and prospecting rights is in a state of dysfunction, characterised by multi-year backlogs, incompetence, alleged corruption, official overreach and endless litigation, as mining and exploration companies have to deal with politically driven decision making and administrative chaos in the department.

“Despite submissions being electronic, in the sense that documents are uploaded through the department’s existing Samrad system, behind the scenes all processes are paper-based with access to the ESRI spatial information database of accepted, granted and executed prospecting and mining rights being highly restricted, even within the department,” says Miller.

“Unlike almost all competing mining jurisdictions, no public access is allowed to this detailed geo-spatial data, except through the tedious process of making a separate paper-based Promotion of Access to Information Act application per enquiry, on payment of a fee, in person, at the department’s relevant regional office. It can then take months for the applicant to get the data, if at all. Litigation must often be threatened to drive the process to completion.”

The impact of this dysfunction is clear, not only in perception surveys like the Fraser Institute’s Annual Survey of Mining and Exploration Companies or the Mining Journal Intelligence World Risk Report 2022 (feat. MineHutte ratings), but also in the exploration budget numbers collected by S&P Capital IQ in their World Exploration Trends 2022 Report.

By way of example Minister Gwede Mantashe set a target, in February 2019, to attract 5% of global exploration budget spend in 3 to 5 years. Yet by 2022 South Africa had attracted just 0.8% (2021: 0.76%), down more than 20% since the target was set. And since this is a relative measure, no, the Covid pandemic cannot be blamed.

The SA Reserves Bank’s Quarterly Bulletin also shows that as at 2021 the Gross Fixed Capital Formation (Investment) in South African Mineral Evaluation & Exploration was at is lowest level since the time series began in 1960. Now just R1.67bn in the year.

A mining cadastre generally consists of two parts (AmaranthCX’s map fills DMRE’s information vacuum)

Firstly, a work-flow management system to handle transactions like applications, appeals, report submissions and payments – and which tracks applications through the system, applies guardrails and guidelines for officials and allows applicants to track their transaction through the process. Importantly it also prevents queue jumping and other manipulations of the process.

Secondly, a mining cadastre requires the presentation of geo-spatial data – maps – where stakeholders can easily see who has what prospecting or mining rights, for which minerals, exactly where, and for how long. This information is vital not only for potential investors, but also for rural communities, land owners, non-mining project developers and activists of all kinds.

In particular those entrepreneurs rushing to develop wind and solar farms to help get South Africa out of its self-inflicted energy crisis, need access to a mining cadastre’s geo-spatial data to be able to select available development land.

It is this geo-spatial data information vacuum that the SA Mining Map attempts to address.

The information used in the map has been painstakingly gleaned from mainly public sources:

  • the diminishing pool of mining companies that have stock exchange disclosure requirements;
  • deep googling for Environmental Impact Assessment documents;
  • Court proceedings;
  • those few unlisted mining companies that publish their Social & Labour Plans online; and
  • from the commendably transparent South African Heritage Resource Agency, which publishes the archaeological and paleontological specialist studies related to new mining developments.

This data is published by neither the Department of Mineral Resources & Energy nor the Minerals Council of South Africa. Incumbent major miners are not particularly supportive of transparency either – especially if an individual mineral property is not material to their overall financial results, regardless of how material it may be on other measures, to other stakeholders.

Millers says that the mapped information is almost certainly not 100% complete, and there appears no reliable way to determine the expiry date of a prospecting right or mining right from public information.

“This is, in part, because most public information that does exist relates to the consultation processes after an application for a prospecting right or mining right is accepted, but before it is eventually granted or rejected,” says Miller.

The map is available for subscription here.

Payment is via credit or debit card only.

Source: AmaranthCX

AmaranthCX’s map fills DMRE’s information vacuum    

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AmaranthCX’s map fills DMRE’s information vacuum


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