JOHANNESBURG - The Department of Mineral Resources (DMR) is embarking on a push to stamp out corruption with Mineral Resources Minister, Gwede Mantashe, closing regional offices with reports of fraud.
Corruption has been a strain on mining companies whose applications for mining licences are often delayed by officials who allegedly hold them to ransom by imposing unrealistic demands.
Barely three months after the DMR closed its regional office in Limpopo to investigate allegations of corruption , it moved to shut the Mpumalanga operations until further notice on Monday.
Among others DMR officials allegedly suggest that companies include certain empowerment partners in order to conclude deals or have their application for licences declined.
Corruption Watch spokesperson Phemelo Khaas said the closures signalled a step towards addressing the abuse of power and office in the regional branches of the DMR.
“We further hope that the closures create a platform for the ministry to note the key vulnerabilities in the mining application processes and address this by streamlining relevant mechanisms that would allow for transparency and accountability in the granting of mining licences ,”said Khaas.
Mantashe established a team of investigators in July to address allegations of corruption, the alleged double granting of licences, and allegations of improper application of Section 54 and backlogs in the issuing of licences .
Mantashe who previously admitted the department was grappling with endemic fraud identified Mpumalanga, Limpopo and the North West regional offices as priority regions for the investigators.
The rampant corruption in Mpumalanga was highlighted after an official was suspended for allegedly abusing Section 54 of the Mine Health and Safety Act.
The official allegedly issued a Section 54 notices and demanded financial compensation in return for their lifting. Section 54 empowers mining inspectors power to deal with dangerous conditions including halting a mine or part of a mine.
The Minerals Council which represents 80 percent of the mining industry , supported the minister’s decision.
“The Minerals Council naturally welcomes any attempts to root out corruption within the department,” said Council spokesperson, Charmane Russell.
The Council was previously at loggerheads with former Mineral Resources Minister, Mosebenzi Zwane over corruption and lack of credibility of the ministry.
The DMR said feedback from clients on the challenges as a result of backlogs in the issuing of licenses and allegations of corruption had necessitated the closure.
“The closure of the office will allow the investigation team set up by an opportunity to do its work in the region and provide feedback to the Minister in due course. As such, all administrative processes related to that office will be handled from the head office until further notice,”said the DMR one its website.
The applications for renewals and graduation of prospecting rights to mining rights will be submitted manually to the department’s head office, the DMR said.
The Limpopo office remains suspended after staff were threatened and a bullet was sent to the regional office in an envelope.
- BUSINESS REPORT