Mineral resources minister Gwede Mantashe ordered the investigation in July. Picture: VELI NHLAPO
Mineral resources minister Gwede Mantashe ordered the investigation in July. Picture: VELI NHLAPO

The department of mineral resources has shut its regional office in Mpumalanga “until further notice” to investigate allegations of corruption and backlogs in the issuing of licences.

The closure will allow an investigative team, appointed by mineral resources minister Gwede Mantashe in July, to investigate complaints, to “do its work in the region and provide feedback to the minister in due course”, the department said on Monday.

No online rights applications will be allowed for the province, and all applications for renewals and the “graduation” of prospecting rights to mining rights will have to be submitted manually to the department’s head office in Pretoria until further notice, it said.

The department has courted controversy in Mpumalanga in the past by granting coal exploration and mining permits in environmentally sensitive areas, leading to various court actions by environmental groups.

In May, Mantashe told Parliament that a preliminary investigation had found that the backlog on new mineral rights applications stretched as far back as 2012 in some regional offices, with some applications gathering dust since 2010.

It seemed that applications from “known” or “paying” applicants were prioritised, he told Parliament.

“To unleash our economy, we must overcome this hurdle to ensure that prospectors can prospect, and those with the legal permits and the means to mine can mine,” Mantashe said at the time.

With Andisiwe Makinana

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