PRETORIA– The Department of Mineral Resources, which has withdrawn the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Amendment (MPRDA) Bill, has decided to shift its focus to gas and oil instead, says Communications Minister Nomvula Mokonyane.

Briefing the media on the outcome of the Cabinet’s fortnightly meeting here Thursday, she added: The Department of Mineral Resources has opted to withdraw the MPRDA and primarily focus on the area of gas and oil which is something the Minister will bring before Cabinet.

“We do believe that his interventions are informed by the understanding in the sector on what would help to sustain the sector and also reposition our country. This is where we are now.”

Last month, it was reported that Mineral Resources Minister Gwede Mantashe planned to propose the scrapping of a bill to amend the MPRDA. Mokonyane said Mantashe, who took over the portfolio following a Cabinet reshuffle in February, had found it necessary to withdraw the Bill.

Minister Mantashe as the executing authority on issues of mineral resources has the responsibility and he has found it necessary to do that and it is within his authority. He doesn’t require Cabinet approval. That is something that we all support in view of his own approach on what should be the way forward around issues related to gas and petroleum. It does not need a Cabinet endorsement, she said.

The Bill was approved by Cabinet in May 2013, with the hope that it will address some of the loopholes in legislation identified in a number of court judgments. At the time, the Department of Mineral Resources said the draft Bill would, among other things, regulate how mining licences are awarded.

In August, Mantashe, who was speaking at the Annual Africa Under (ADU) in Perth, Australia, said the Bill had been withdrawn from Parliament and that the current MPRDA would be implemented in its current form.

The department has since engaged the gas and petroleum sector and initiated a process for the development of a separate legal framework specifically for this sector and not have it as an appendage to the mining sector framework.

Mantashe said this move will also provide certainty for the gas and petroleum sector.

Wednesday’s Cabinet meeting also discussed the country’s Mining Charter of which public comments into the draft closed at the end of August. The new Charter (which is the third draft) proposes to raise black ownership at permit-holding mining companies to at least 30 per cent from 26 per cent within five years and for one per cent of profits to be paid to employees and local communities.