15/11/2010 Mineral Resources Minister Susan Shabangu during a media breakfast briefing held at Pretoria Gauteng. (169) Photo: Leon Nicholas

Cape Town - South Africa's government aims to pass legislation before general elections in three months that will streamline the granting of licences and provide a framework for “adding value” to extracted minerals, the mining minister said on Tuesday.

She also reiterated that discussions were under way that could lead the state to declare minerals such as coal as “strategic”, which could curb exports, but gave no time frame for such a policy.

“The bill will not create an uncertain regulatory regime,” Susan Shabangu said in prepared remarks at an Africa mining investment conference in Cape Town.

She said the law aimed to “improve the ease of doing business in the industry, by amongst others, streamlining and integrating mining, environmental and water authorisation processes. This process commits government to a turnaround time of up to 300 days for a mining right.”

Shabangu added that the law “would promote value addition of South Africa's minerals” but no mining company would be forced to process minerals.

“Continued exportation of unprocessed minerals denies South Africa the possibility for skilled employment, skills development and contribution to the fiscus needed to address our developmental imperatives,” she said.

Shabangu later told journalists that discussions on the possible declaration of some minerals as strategic were still under way but it was unclear whether such a provision would be included in the legislation, leaving investors in the dark.

“There will be discussions on how do we do it, whether there will be quotas and what will be the nature of the formulas used. On the basis of that, regulations will be passed,” she said.

South Africa exports much of its coal to Asian and European markets.

There have been concerns the government could place quotas on this to ensure domestic supplies for state-run power utility Eskom, which is battling to keep the lights on in Africa's biggest economy.

South Africa exported 70.2 million tonnes of coal from the Richards Bay Coal Terminal in 2013, up from 68.3 million tonnes the previous year, data released in early January showed.

South African coal producers include Exxaro and Anglo American.

Norman Mbazima, the chief executive of Kumba Iron Ore, told Reuters the talks have been “constructive”. - Reuters