What is the status of the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act (MPRDA) Amendment Bill, 2013, and are amendments still possible?

The much debated Minerals and Petroleum Resources Development Act (MPRDA) Amendment Bill, No 15 of 2013 (Bill) has been passed by the National Assembly on 1 November and has been transmitted to the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) for concurrence.

Assuming the NCOP will approve the Bill, it will be forwarded to the President for assent and in a final step be gazetted thereafter. 

There have been a number of reasons for the Bill’s delay, including certain reservations of the President (consultative issues in relation to the involvement of the National House of Traditional Leaders), as well as constitutional issues regarding the Codes of Good practice and the Housing and Living Condition Standards for the minerals industry. Concerns regarding the implementation of other petroleum-related issues, particularly the state’s free carry and the dissolution of the petroleum agency have not been a focal point for the involved legislative bodies.

Amendments are still possible. The NCOP may yet summon stakeholders to report to it in regard to outstanding contentious issues by accepting petitions, representations or submissions as part of the meetings of its select committee on land and mineral resources. Those stakeholders may yet have an opportunity to influence the final version of the Bill. Any petitions, representations, submissions, public consultations or hearings will undoubtedly be a much more curtailed process given that stakeholders have had an extended period to prepare. Once the Bill is passed, it will serve as a  legislative framework to underpin the contractual terms which must ultimately be agreed between the investor and the Minister of Mineral Resources.

In the light of the proposed Amendment of the National Energy Regulation Act; Gas Amendment Bill; Upstream Gas Bill; and Petroleum Agency of South Africa Establishment Bill, there is a possibility that parts of our current oil and gas legislation will be detached from the MPRDA and a silent separation of the petroleum sector from the mining industry may take place. Hence, investments in the oil and gas exploration and production in South Africa will soon be regulated by more than just the Minerals and Petroleum Resources Development Act.