The Act aims to make provision for equitable access to and sustainable development of the nation's mineral and petroleum resources and for related matters. It was amended by the Minerals and Energy Laws Amendment Act 11 of 2005 and the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Amendment Act 49 of 2008.
Under Section 3(1), all Mineral and petroleum resources are the common heritage of the people of South Africa, and the state is the custodian thereof for the benefit of all South Africans. As such, the government has the discretion to grant, issue, refuse, control, administer and manage any mining and petroleum rights.
This Act prohibits any person from conducting mining and petroleum operations except with prior environmental authorisation - S.5A(a). The Minister of Minerals and Energy is responsible for implementing environmental provisions relating to the mining or petroleum operations in terms of the National Environmental Management Act, 1998.
Chapter 6 deals with petroleum exploration and production, including the granting of exploration rights and production rights and the issuing of technical cooperation permits and reconnaissance permits. Under Ss.70, 71, the Minister may designate an entity to conduct functions such as receiving and evaluating applications for petroleum rights, reviewing and making recommendations to the Minister concerning the acceptance of environmental reports and the conditions of the environmental authorisations.
All applications for exploration and production rights and their renewal thereof must include the results of the consultation in the relevant environmental report, and submit the relevant environmental reports as per the requirements of Chapter 5 of the National Environmental Management Act, 1998 within 120 days from the date of the notice. Further, before the grant petroleum rights, the Minister must issue an environmental authorisation. In case of renewal, the holder of the rights must have complied with the conditions of the environmental authorisation. Also, the holders of petroleum rights are obligated to comply with the requirements of the approved environmental management plans.
Furthermore, this Act provides for the issuance of a closure certificate – S.43. The holder of the mining or petroleum right which has ceased to exist remains responsible for any environmental liability, pollution, ecological degradation, or compliance to the conditions of the environmental authorisation and the management and sustainable closure thereof until the Minister has issued a closure certificate to the holder or owner concerned. The certificate can only be issued where the Chief Inspector and relevant government departments have confirmed in writing that the provisions about health and safety and management of pollution under the environmental authorisation have been complied with. As such, the applicants must amend their programmes, plans or environmental authorisations accordingly or submit a closure plan, subject to the approval of the Minister.
S. 46 authorises the Minister to remedy environmental damage in certain instances by taking measures to prevent pollution or rehabilitate the environment. for example, where damage occurs but the holder of the right is deceased or cannot be traced or has ceased to exist. The Minister may also suspend or cancel permits in case of contravention of the environmental authorisation – S.47.
The Act also requires the holder of any permit or right who conducts reconnaissance operations, technical cooperation studies, exploration operations or production operations to submit such information, data, reports to the designated authority – S.88. Further, the Act provides for powers of entry and inspection concerning any activity, process or operation carried out therein – Ss. 91, 92; and offences and penalties – S.99.