The South African Research Chair: Mineral Law in Africa is part of the South African Research Chairs Initiative (SARChi) established by the Department of Science and Technology and the National Research Foundation. The current and inaugural holder of the Chair, Professor Hanri Mostert, has been charged with giving direction to the Chair and overseeing its launch in 2016.
The importance of the Chair’s work in the current context of mineral law in Africa cannot be overstated. Where exploitative and invasive practices pose threats to the socio-economic well-being of Africans, systems of weak governance and/or inadequate regulation are apparent. Mineral wealth, unaccompanied by strong regulatory systems and good governance render countries vulnerable to corruption and lawlessness as well as exploitation by global players better equipped to engage in the extraction of minerals and oil. A sound legal framework is a necessary precondition for the development of a well-functioning mining sector which advances equitable distribution of the benefits flowing from extractive industries and ensures sustainable environmental and socially responsible mining. It is essential for the legal framework to regulate and safeguard responsible investment behaviour in the extractive sector. Investments in a country’s mining sector cannot be governed solely by contract, no matter how well intended. At the core of the solution lies the need for a strong legal framework within which investments are regulated, mining contracts are negotiated and governmental policies are implemented. Such legal frameworks need to be aligned with emerging global trends in the sector aimed at ensuring transparency and public participation.
The Chair is a hotbed for the evaluation and re-conceptualisation of key legal systems in Africa, where extractive industries direct the countries’ economies, or have the potential to do so in future. Apart from producing the highest quality research outputs about various mineral law systems in Africa, the work of the Chair will assist lawyers from across Africa working in the field of mineral law to understand the law and governance aspects of their legal systems better, and to respond to societal and industry needs more appropriately.
The Chair is a centre of excellence for the accumulation and dissemination of knowledge and information about mineral law systems in various African countries. The research interests of the Chair participants cover an extensive and wide-ranging array of issues relevant to extractive industries. Research areas include environmental concerns, socio-economic matters, transformation of mining industries, mining tax, mining waste, investment interests and land issues. Researchers at the chair are seeking to provide equitable and practical solutions to the problem of balancing competing interests in the mining industry.
To build capacity through future and current legal practitioners, the Chair is involved in a wide range of teaching activities in the Faculty of Law at UCT. Its members conduct courses on mineral law, expropriation law and constitutional property law at both an undergraduate and postgraduate level.