Govt to re­voke nine min­ing li­censes

Lesotho Times - - Business - Bereng Mpaki

THE govern­ment is in the process of re­vok­ing nine min­eral prospect­ing li­censes af­ter the hold­ers failed to be­gin ex­plo­ration work, Min­is­ter of Min­ing Le­bo­hang Thotanyana has said.

In an in­ter­view with the Le­sotho Times this week, Mr Thotanyana said the min­istry as­sessed all the 19 min­ing com­pa­nies hold­ing prospect­ing li­censes in the coun­try to as­cer­tain the progress they were mak­ing.

“The as­sess­ment was nec­es­sary be­cause lack of progress was in­hibit­ing job cre­ation op­por­tu­ni­ties that would arise from the ex­plo­ration of the mines,” he said.

“The study re­vealed that very lit­tle progress was be­ing made. It was then pre­sented to the new Min­ing Board which was ap­pointed in Jan­uary this year and has since rec­om­mended the can­cel­la­tion of li­censes for com­pa­nies that are not prospect­ing.”

Mr Thotanyana said he could not di­vulge the names of the com­pa­nies be­cause they were cur­rently be­ing served with the can­cel­la­tion let­ters.

He said the as­sess­ment was made af­ter an out­cry by the pub­lic that most prospec­tive li­cense hold­ers were not mak­ing use of them.

“The per­for­mances of most of the min­ing com­pa­nies awarded prospect­ing li­censes has gen­er­ally been very poor to say the least. That is why we had to re­view their sta­tus,” Mr Thotanyana said.

“Most of the com­pa­nies have been hold­ing the li­censes for over two years, which is longer than the per­mit­ted pe­riod since there has been no re­newals.”

Added to that, the min­is­ter said, the min­ing com­pa­nies had not sub­mit­ted progress re­ports with some not even based at the lo­ca­tions they claimed to be their of­fices as re­quired by the law.

“Our motto is use the li­cense or lose the li­cense. That is why we are re­vok­ing the li­censes of com­pa­nies that have not made use of them,” he said.

“The Com­mis­sioner of Mines wrote to all min­ing com­pa­nies that were not mak­ing any progress to show cause why their li­censes should not be ter­mi­nated.

“They were given spe­cific tar­gets to meet within a spec­i­fied pe­riod of time. But the com­pa­nies still failed to meet th­ese re­quire­ments.”

Mr Thotanyana said most of the com­pa­nies were un­able to mo­bilise the money needed to em­bark on prospect­ing op­er­a­tions, while oth­ers did not have the req­ui­site tech­ni­cal skills.

“The holder of a prospect­ing li­cense has to meet fi­nan­cial as well as tech­ni­cal re­quire­ments,” he said.

“But it would seem some of the li­censees mis­rep­re­sented their ca­pac­ity when ap­ply­ing for the li­censes. It is clear that we awarded some of the li­censes to the wrong peo­ple.”

Go­ing for­ward, the min­is­ter said they would come up with more strin­gent cri­te­ria for award­ing prospect­ing li­censes such as fol­low­ing up on claims of fi­nan­cial back­ing made by min­ing com­pa­nies.

“Th­ese wrong peo­ple are giv­ing this in­dus­try a bad rep­u­ta­tion be­cause they end up try­ing to sell (trans­fer) the li­censes to des­per­ate in­vestors at in­flated prices,” said Mr Thotanyana.

“The min­istry will soon in­vite ap­pli­ca­tions to min­ing com­pa­nies in­ter­ested in tak­ing over the li­censes.”

He also em­pha­sised that the re­vok­ing of the li­censes was above board and not po­lit­i­cally mo­ti­vated.

“We are not be­ing ma­li­cious or any­thing of that sort as some peo­ple have claimed. The process is fair and trans­par­ent as it is based on merit,” Mr Thotanyana added.

Mean­while, oper­a­tors of Vinm Min­er­als and Di­a­monds, a com­pany awarded a prospect­ing li­cense in Fe­bru­ary 2015 for di­a­mond ex­plo­ration in Sekubu, Butha-buthe told this pa­per they started op­er­a­tions later than planned due to dis­rup­tions by the sur­round­ing com­mu­nity.

“The peo­ple were ac­cus­ing us of steal­ing their land. They were clearly ig­no­rant of what the law says re­gard­ing this process. And the chiefs were also to blame for fail­ing to ex­plain such is­sues to their sub­jects,” the com­pany’s founder, Vin­cent Mabolu, said.

He said they had man­aged to con­struct ac­cess roads to the prospect­ing site and ini­tialised the process of ex­plo­ration.

“We are hop­ing to in­crease the in­ten­sity of our prospect­ing work within the next month as more re­sources have been raised,” Mr Mabolu said.

Min­is­ter of Min­ing Le­bo­hang thotanyana.

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