- Mpumalanga has the highest backlog of mining rights and prospecting licences.
- Delays in the issuing of mining licences and permits are often cited by companies in the sector as one of the major stumbling blocks to new investments and competitiveness.
- The Department of Mineral Resources and Energy is in the process of moving mining and prospecting licence applications online.
Mpumalanga, which has the highest concentration of the country's coal mines, also has the highest backlog of mining rights and prospecting licences, the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy said on Tuesday.
Delays in the issuing of mining licences and permits are often cited by companies in the sector as one of the major stumbling blocks to new investments and competitiveness, with applications sometimes taking more than a year to process.
In a briefing before Parliament's portfolio committee on mineral resources and energy, officials from the department said although progress had been made in the processing of applications, work in regional offices was affected by staffing issues, with key vacancies unfilled.
As at the end of July, Mpumalanga had a total of 803 outstanding prospecting rights applications, from 1 001 at the end of March, said deputy director-general Tseliso Maqubela.
There were 971 mining permits requests from the end of July.
In a bid to speed up the process, the department has issued a request for proposal (RFP) for the procurement of an online application system to facilitate the process. The system is expected to offer transparency, compliance with legislation and reduce the turnaround time in the granting exploration and mining rights.
The appointment of a service provider is expected to be completed by the end of October 2021.
With regards to the KwaZulu-Natal office, which has been operating without a permanent regional manager, Maqubela said work in the region was impeded in the past few months by Covid-19 disruptions and the so-called "diamond rush" as officials shifted focus to the stones found in a village outside Ladysmith.
"We so wish that these were diamonds, but they turned out to be quartz crystal, which has a lot less value than diamonds," said Maqubela.
In June, scores of people descended on KwaHlathi village, digging out what was believed to be diamonds, and the department had to dispatch teams to the area to conduct tests on the stones.
Maqubela added that even though the stones were not diamonds, the mining of quartz crystal still required licences.