Cape Town – The Department of Mineral Resources is to tackle mine safety by creating regional inspectorates, following an 8 percent increase in mine fatalities in the second quarter, the Minister of Mineral Resources Susan Shabangu said.
Briefing the media at a luncheon at the Taj Hotel before presenting her Budget Vote this afternoon, Shabangu said she was concerned about the rise in mine deaths – which had risen to 53 in the second quarter, from 49 in the same period last year.
She said the department was doing everything it could do to improve the safety of mines, including boosting internal capacity with the proposed setting up of regional compliance and investigation units to conduct inspections and safety audits of mines.
The regional units would be complemented by the addition of 19 learner inspectors at regional offices and the appointment of legal advisors at regional offices to assist with investigations and inquiries.
Turning to the moratorium she had placed on shale gas exploration in the Karoo in February, Shabangu said Cabinet would, by the end of July, take a decision on whether to continue with the moratorium or not.
A task team, which included officials from her department and the Petroleum Agency of SA (Pasa) as well as the Department of Trade and Industry and the Department of Science and Technology, is looking at international experience and its effect on the environment, she said.
Shabangu said the department’s new mining rights system was now up and running, and 627 applications had been lodged – all of which had been successful.
She was satisfied that the system was working better, as applications were being made online, adding that online filings also meant less interaction from officials at the department.
The only complaints she had was that the system was slow when making applications, she said.
The state owned mining company African Exploration and Finance Mining Company’s first supply of coal would be shipped to Eskom by new mining by the end of this month.
A task team, comprising 11 departments as well as African Exploration and Finance Mining Company, was looking at the state’s mining and minerals interests at how best the government can position and pool these.
Shabangu said the beneficiation of South Africa’s minerals was in the process of becoming government policy and a beneficiation strategy was before Cabinet.
Her department was also looking at how other departments could assist her department, as well as which minerals should be targeted for beneficiation.
“The purpose is to ensure that we don’t continue as in the past when there was no value-add on our commodities,” said Shabangu.
She said the department was looking at how best to create new industries – both upstream and downstream but she pointed out that the department wasn’t looking at forcing mining companies to beneficiate the minerals they mined.
The department wanted to also make towns and mining areas economically sustainable, once mining firms had left areas.
A review of the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act is under way to remove any ambiguities in the act.
It also makes provision for consulting processes and streamlining the licensing processes. Shabangu pointed out that she would be inviting applications for mining rights in areas that had previously been granted, issued, revoked or which had expired.
The amendment would also include strengthening regulation of the environment around mining and minerals.
She expected the amendment bill to come before Parliament by next month or August. – BuaNews