Gwede Mantashe. Picture: AFP PHOTO / MUJAHID SAFODIEN
Gwede Mantashe. Picture: AFP PHOTO / MUJAHID SAFODIEN

Mineral Resources Minister Gwede Mantashe wants to withdraw the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Amendment Bill, which has been stuck in the National Council of Provinces for months and months.

The withdrawal will be welcomed by the industry, which has been plagued by uncertainty while it has been the subject of legislative processes dating back to 2013.

Mantashe told parliament’s mineral resources portfolio committee on Wednesday that his view, and that of his department, was that the bill should be withdrawn, allowing the mining industry to be governed by the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act (MPRDA) in its present form. There was nothing in the act which inhibits the sector.

The particular needs of the petroleum sector — which are addressed in the amendment bill — could be dealt with in a dedicated, directly targeted legislative framework for the sector. Mantashe said this was better than trying to squeeze the petroleum sector into the MPRDA.

This proposal would have to be taken to the cabinet.

"It is excellent news as much as a very sensible move by Mantashe," said Herbert Smith Freehills partner and mine law expert Peter Leon.

"It is also good news for the oil and gas industry provided this can be done quickly. The select committee’s decision to fast-track the bill yesterday would have been susceptible to constitutional challenge."

Of particular concern to the industry about the amendment bill is a proposal requiring mining companies intending to export minerals to apply for written consent from the mineral resources minister, who might apply certain conditions.

Producers of designated minerals would also be required to offer a percentage of the minerals to local beneficiators.

Mantashe said there was “nothing to be proud of” in terms of the progress of the bill in the National Council of Provinces. Several meetings had been held with the select committee dealing with the bill, including one two days ago.

The problem seemed to be a combination of a lack of understanding and the pursuit of narrow interests. Each of the provinces was adhering to its own particular mandates.

Dealing with the mining charter, Mantashe said he hoped to have finalised it — including its presentation to the cabinet — before the investment summit scheduled for November.

“This will remove a great deal of uncertainty,” the minister told MPs.

The bill was sent back to Parliament by former president Jacob Zuma in 2015, partly on the grounds that proper consultation processes were not followed.

With Allan Seccombe