Improving access to mining law

Professor Hanri Mostert

For Africa to benefit more fully from its mineral, oil and gas resources, it needs to develop indigenous capacity to create and implement sound legal frameworks and good governance in the extractives sector.

This is the basis for two ventures of the Mineral Law in Africa (MLiA) project, based at the University of Cape Town, namely a book series entitled Principles and Policies of Mineral Law and an online mapping of the mineral laws in Africa dubbed the African Mining Legislation Atlas (AMLA).

“Our research into the mineral law frameworks of individual countries has been progressing steadily over the past two years,” says project director, Professor Hanri Mostert. Teams constituted on a country-by-country basis have been using a questionnaire to research fourteen key aspects of mineral law in the participating jurisdictions, which include South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Zambia, Mozambique, Cameroon, Kenya, Tanzania, Eritrea and Nigeria.

The outcome of these processes will be a series of book publications for academics and specialist practitioners on the mineral laws of Africa. The books will deal with a range of issues, from frameworks for right holding and governance, to corporate social responsibility or investment, labour and much more. The purpose is to create a resource that will support the other group activities, which are knowledge creation, sharing and transfer.

“The work on the library interacts well with AMLA’s initiative,” comments Prof. Mostert, while explaining the other project: an open-access, free online ‘atlas’ is being developed in partnership with the World Bank Group and the African Legal Support Facility (ALSF). It uses interactive mapping technology to develop a searchable version of all primary mining laws and regulations in Africa, and will be available in English, Portuguese and French. “Africa may be rich in mineral resources,” says Prof. Mostert, “but the real wealth is to be found in the intellectual capacity of its people.” 

A major part of the brief is to grow “an Africa-educated network of specialists in mineral and mining law,” she says, “people who may spearhead the development of home-grown solutions to the challenges faced in the extractives industry”.

The team is accordingly made up of a number of carefully selected and specially trained law students from jurisdictions all over the continent, who can process the information and populate the database supporting the atlas. Their work is controlled and supported by a quality control committee comprising law professors and legal practitioners from the various participating jurisdictions.

To promote the capacity already existing on the continent, the MLiA project has commenced teaching mineral law at various levels of the law curriculum. “There is an elective course on final-year LLB level which allows students wishing to specialise in extractives law with an opportunity to learn the ropes,” says Mostert.

“Then there is a new course starting at Masters level, for those interested in mineral law beyond the borders of our country.” Mostert explains that they have also entered into talks with scholars from other African countries – Zambia, Cote d’Ivoire and Mozambique – about developing similar teaching curricula at various centres around the continent.

A further outcome of the two projects is the development of a template, for use in future revisions of existing laws, or in the drafting of new laws. Without being prescriptive, it will set out the range of options on particular issues and will provide annotations that include explanations of the provisions in non-legal language and examples of cases and/or countries where a specific provision has been used.

“Proper management of natural resources remains one of the most critical development issues for the African continent, particularly in light of the continued scramble for African resources,” says Mostert. “We hope that these two projects will provide the tools to debate and develop legislation that will reframe the global discourse around mineral wealth and will result in the sustainable use of mineral resources for shared prosperity.”

Irèna Wasserfall


PULL QUOTE: To promote the capacity already existing on the continent, the MLiA project has commenced teaching mineral law at various levels of the law curriculum.


BOX: About Professor Hanri Mostert

Prof. Mostert’s undergraduate studies in Humanities and Law at Stellenbosch University piqued her interest in property law. Having honed her research skills at the Max Planck Institute for Public and International Law in Germany, she completed her doctorate on the topic of constitutional protection and regulation of property in 2000. Since then, through her appointments at Stellenbosch University (2001 to 2008), the University of Cape Town (since 2008) and the University of Groningen (since 2010), she endeavours to share her insights with new generations of property law students.

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Issue 42