Empowering the continent: the African Mining Legislation Atlas
1 Dec 2015 - 09:30
It is no secret that Africa is the richest continent in the world in natural resources - it holds nearly three quarters of the world’s platinum supply, a fifth of its uranium and nearly half its chromium and gold - but this has not been translated into economic wealth for its citizens. The World Bank has identified the effective management of natural resources as a development priority for the continent.
In 2014, the Legal Vice Presidency of the World Bank partnered with Professor Hanri Mostert of the Mineral Law in Africa project (MLiA) in the Department of Private Law at UCT, and the Africa Legal Support Facility of the African Development Bank, to develop the African Mining Legislation Atlas (AMLA). This project, which is still ongoing, aims to collect and process all of Africa’s mining laws and regulations into an online database. The database will be open source and provide easy access to anybody with an interest in mining and mineral law in Africa. It will also provide comparative data on mineral law legislation and regulation across the continent. Lastly, a guiding template for the development of new legislation will also be released in future. This will strengthen the ability of countries to produce good and transparent law in the important field of minerals and mining.
The AMLA aims to help address the information asymmetry between the various stakeholders in the mining sector. This includes not only governments and mining companies but also local communities in mining areas. Information is power, and African governments and citizens have been operating with a dearth of information regarding mining laws and international best practice. At the same time, legal uncertainty inhibits further investment in this very important sector to all African countries and creates conditions for corruption and ineffective allocation of scarce and extremely valuable resources.
The AMLA aims to provide quick access to the current mining laws and regulations of all African countries for comparison. It is imperative that the database is accessible, user-friendly, comprehensive and accurate, as it has to offer a one-stop resource for African governments, citizens, mining companies and investors.
In order to achieve this, Professor Mostert contacted the eResearch Centre for technical advice and support, and to host the software for the project at UCT. The intention in the medium- to long-term is for UCT to take over the hosting and maintenance of the database. eResearch will play an important advisory and support role in the AMLA.
An important component of the project is to build capacity on the African continent. To further this goal a network of African universities has been established to work on the AMLA. Key to this will be effective use of the electronic research environment. The project will work with emerging researchers as part of a capacity-building intervention led by UCT. To further this end the AMLA project hosted inaugural training for law students and supervising law professors at the end of 2014. The training was held at UCT and was attended by 24 law students and 5 professors from across the continent, all sponsored by the AMLA.
A second component of the capacity building aspect was to use a continental vendor for the development of the database. A Kenyan-based web development company called Farwell Consultants was tasked to develop the software, and the UCT eResearch Centre to host the application on its server.
“The eResearch team was instrumental in providing critical advice in a range of aspects, including facilitating contact with key stakeholders and advising on technical specs, user requirements, future developments, value and user enhancing additions, as well as technical training during the AMLA training at UCT,” says Herman Meyer, member of the AMLA project team, and research coordinator in the Department of Private Law.
The AMLA aims to support transparency and help create the right environment for the sustainable use of mineral resources for shared prosperity.
If used in the right way, information technologies today offer the potential to even the playing field, democratising the most precious resource of all: information.
Story by Natalie Simon
Main Image: By Leandro Neumann Ciuffo from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (Mina da passagem Uploaded by Markos90) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons