(Updates with minister’s comment in third paragraph.)
June 1 (Bloomberg) -- South Africa, the nation with the biggest mineral wealth, granted at least 627 mineral prospecting rights since April 18, when it lifted a moratorium on applications, Mineral Resources Minister Susan Shabangu said.
The Department of Mineral Resources stopped awarding prospecting rights on Sept. 1 after errors in the award of some permits were uncovered. Applications are now only accepted electronically via the department’s website, a measure the government hopes will eliminate the mistakes.
“What we want to achieve with the system is what is happening,” Shabangu told reporters in Cape Town today. “It’s working well” and complaints that the system is too slow are being addressed.
BHP Billiton Ltd. and Anglo American Plc are among companies that mine coal, platinum and diamonds in South Africa, which Citigroup Inc. last year said has mineral resources worth about $2.5 trillion.
A planned review of South Africa’s Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act is under way that aims to further streamline the licensing process and should be submitted to Parliament by the end of July, Shabangu said. Mine safety laws are also being reviewed to strengthen enforcement and increase penalties for infractions, she said.
Fifty-three miners have died in South Africa’s mines so far this year, up from 49 over the same period last year, according to government data.
Shabangu said the Cabinet is evaluating a plan that aims to ensure companies process more of the mineral they extract within the country, without compelling them to do so.
Shabangu also said a task team has been appointed to consider the merits of allowing the extraction of shale gas. A report is due by the end of July.
Royal Dutch Shell Plc has applied to start shale-gas exploration in South Africa’s Karoo region. Its plans to drill about 24 wells in an area of about 90,000 square kilometers (34,749 square miles) faces opposition from the Treasure the Karoo Action Group on the grounds that it may have adverse environmental consequences.
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