Giant clanging ball dropped by mineral resources department
Dodgy manganese prospecting rights awarded by the department overturned by Constitutional Court
The SA government and those of Zimbabwe and Zambia have unceremoniously lost their tenuous claim over a massive manganese deposit found by an Australian company in SA.
The Constitutional Court made a ruling in the dispute over the rights over the manganese deposit that damned the conduct of the department of mineral resources. Now mining minister Gwede Mantashe simply has to be stung into action to speed up the way the department works.
The undertone of the judgment was that the department went out of its way to ensure a deeply flawed prospecting right application by ZiZa and the Pan African Mineral Development Corporation, the entities owned by the three governments, was not rejected and ultimately approved by the minister.
Against this, an Australian company, Aquila Steel, had applied for prospecting rights over the same ground and sunk R157m in an exploration programme, finding an enormous manganese deposit.
Justice Edwin Cameron not only lambasted the department for not rejecting a clearly lacking application from ZiZa, but for then behaving badly towards Aquila, scrambling to ensure the three governments could keep their hands on the deposit.
But there was another point Cameron raised that must surely raise deep concerns for those in the department who are engaged in accepting substandard prospecting rights for politically connected or wealthy individuals and driving them through the processes.
He noted that any “malperformance” by a regional manager in accepting a defective prospecting right, which by law the manager is compelled to reject, would open the way to those who have been deprived of mineral rights in these cases to approach the court.
Those aggrieved parties could have the decision to accept the prospecting right and its subsequent award challenged under the Promotion of Administrative Justice Act, which if successful could result in the next party in the queue for the rights to apply for them. In other words, those dodgy prospecting rights awarded by the department could very well be challenged by competent explorers and miners, unlocking SA’s mineral wealth.