The mineral resources department is soon to launch a new system allowing for online lodging of mining rights applications, progress reports and viewing progress on-line.
Compliant applicants should be able to receive acceptance letters instantly, Mineral Resources Minister Susan Shabangu told a media briefing at Parliament on Monday.
The system offers geographical information systems (GIS) based spatial information, which for the first time allowed the public to view the locality of issued rights, and land in respect of which applications were being considered, at any given time, through the department's website.
The system was also able to electronically accept applications for mining permits, prospecting rights and mining rights through the website, she said.
Furthermore, it had evaluation procedures to ensure consistency, transparency, and eliminate the possibility of human error in the evaluation process.
"I must at this time caution that achieving these levels of consistency and uniformity also require consistency in the format of applications and supporting information to be submitted by the applicants."
In this regard the department has developed guidelines and standard templates for the supporting documents required to be submitted for application purposes.
These standard guidelines and templates would be published on the department's website as from this week. The public was thus given advance notice to take note thereof and make the necessary adjustments to the documentation they intended to submit, because these formats would be prescribed.
Shabangu said she had imposed a moratorium on lodging new prospecting rights on September 1 last year to enable the department to re-direct resources and focus on conducting audits into the status of all rights granted since the implementation of the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act (MPRDA).
The terms of reference of the audit deliberately commenced with granted rights, because a significant number of rights which were never progressed to "issuing stage" were discovered.
A sum total of the number of prospecting rights that were issued, plus exploration commitments that were made, conveyed a story that South Africa had an excellent prospect of a "boom in exploration activity".
"Even more disturbing is the fact that even in seams or mineral complexes with known mineralisation such as Mpumalanga, Limpopo, etc, this hive of exploration activity did not take place.
"During this period, we scheduled an audit of all prospecting rights as part, among others, of the data clean-up process."
'Usher in a new era'
During the moratorium period so far, the department thoroughly reviewed and mapped its business processes to improve efficiency, ensure consistency and achieve greater transparency in the process of allocating prospecting rights, mining rights and mining permits.
"I am hereby proud to announce that when the moratorium is lifted, it will usher in a new era characterised by a long overdue online application system," Shabangu said.
The system had been imbued with the principles of accountability, transparency and efficiencies.
The system would also address overlaps in properties being applied for, as it would not permit acceptance of applications with overlapping properties.
The new system had a single layer, making it highly advanced. It contained information from other government planning systems including environmentally-sensitive and protected areas, deeds offices, township development areas, water pans, etc.
"This will eliminate the current challenge where rights end up being granted over environmentally sensitive areas," she said.