Traditional leaders call for independent mining council.

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The Department Mineral Resources has rejected a call by the National House of Traditional Leaders to have an independent body to take over for the granting of prospecting and mining rights. The traditional leaders made a submission to the Portfolio Committee on Mineral Resources regarding the amendments to the Mineral Petroleum Resources Development Bill on Wednesday.

Currently the Minister has the right to grant or reject a mining license application. Some mine-hosting communities and community organisations have charged, however, that decisions are influenced by a political and business elite determined to profit from new and renewed mining projects.

Parliament adopted the MPRDA aNHTLsmendment last year, but it was sent back to parliament by President Jacob Zuma after objections from civil society groups. One of the reasons given by the presidency was inadequate consultation.

Inkosi Sipho Mahlangu, deputy chairperson of the National House of Traditional Leaders, said the Mineral and Mining Development Council would avoid the conflicts that have been witnessed before.

“The Bill should make provision for the establishment of such a body, which should be called the Minerals and Mining Development Council, in order to eliminate any future conflict of interest that may arise concerning those who are vested with powers to make such decisions” said Inkosi Mahlangu.

The Department of Mineral Resources, in a submission responding to the proposals made by traditional leaders, rejected the idea of an independent structure which would take over the responsibilities of the Minister, Regional Managers, RMDC and the Ministerial Advisory Council. The department said the Constitution of South Africa provides for mining as national competence. Section 3 of the MPRDA enunciates this Constitutional prerogative, enjoining the national Minister of Mineral Resources to act on behalf of the State to administer the development of mineral and upstream petroleum resources.

The House of Traditional Leaders said the Minerals and Mining Development Council should be a national body with regional structures in all provinces and should be appointed by the Portfolio Committee. Traditional leaders expressed their discontent with the State Law Advisor for telling the state not to refer the MPRD Bill to the house.

“The National House of Traditional Leaders views as a serious drawback the alleged opinion by the State Law Advisor (that the Bill) should not be referred to the National House of Traditional Leaders in terms of section 18 of the Traditional Leadership and Governance Framework Act, 2003, as it contains no provisions pertaining to customary law or customs of traditional communities” said Inkosi Mahlangu.

Traditional leaders further want employment opportunities be given to communities hosting mining. They proposed the Bill should also be rephrased to drop any reference to labour sending areas and replace it with preferential employment opportunities. The leaders cited labour sending areas as an apartheid system of sourcing labour and said it should be discontinued.

It will be up to the portfolio committee, which is  scheduled to meet again soon, to decide whether to recommend adoption of the NHTL proposals in the revised MPRDA.

 

opinion-grey Sifiso Dladla is a community activist working with the Land & Accountability Research Centre at the University of Cape Town.
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