Author: Mike Cohen, Bloomberg|
20 March 2014 15:21
Mining law risks challenge if public not consulted
All nine provinces must have sufficient time to consult the public.
South Africa’s amended mining and energy law could be thrown out should the country’s nine provinces have insufficient time to consult the public, the opposition Democratic Alliance said.
The National Council of Provinces, given just 12 days to pass the changes rather than the required six weeks, “are going to open themselves up to constitutional litigation,” Elza van Lingen, leader of the party on the council, said today.
The ruling African National Congress is “hell-bent on getting this bill through,” she said by phone from the city of Port Elizabeth. “The provinces are saying we can’t do it.”
Amendments to the 2002 Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act, which include allowing the state to take a free, 20% stake in all new energy ventures, were passed by the National Assembly on March 13, before being referred to the NCOP, parliament’s second chamber. The law is backed by the ANC, which seeks a bigger role for the state in the economy.
The provincial legislatures are “in injury time,” Freddie Adams, the chairman of the NCOP’s Select Committee on Economic Development, Energy and Mineral Resources, said today by phone. The NCOP’s planned adjournment in a week’s time gives it little time to hold public hearings on the bill, according to Adams, who said it does have the option of calling an additional session after the normal parliamentary schedule ends March 27.
“We can always make a request to the presiding officers of parliament to have a special sitting” to pass the amendments, said Adams, an ANC lawmaker. Still, processing the bill before the May 7 general elections is going to be “very tight” and “will depend on the legislatures.”
The amended law would also enable the mines minister to declare some minerals strategic and force companies that produce them to sell some output locally. The bill has been opposed by groups including the Offshore Petroleum Association of South Africa, whose members say the law will deter investment.
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