The constitutionality of the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act 28 of 2002
Van der Schyff, Elmarie
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The Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act 28 of 2002 (MPRDA) is premised on the principle that minerals are part of the natural heritage of all South Africans. Section 3 of the MPRDA articulates the core of the new mineral law dispensation. Through the provisions of the said section, new concepts are introduced to the field of mineral law previously governed by the South African common law system of private ownership, based on Roman-Dutch principles. The study focused on section 3 of the MPRDA and the consequences ensuing from its implementation. Consequently, a historical overview of the development of South African mineral law was followed by an exposition of the development of the constitutional property concept. It was concluded that mineral rights from the previous dispensation constitute property protected by section 25 of the Constitution. It was also found that the development encapsulated in the MPRDA in respect of the ownership of the country's unsevered minerals, is indicative of the decline of private property. It is substituted by a line of thought which recognises that certain interests 'are held in common' by the nation. This idea is also found in inter alia the National Water Act 36 of 1998 and the National Environmental Management Act 107 of 1998. This led to the next section of the research where the concept of custodial sovereignty as manifested in the Anglo-American public trust doctrine was studied. It was apparent that the public trust doctrine is a legal construct whereby ownership of certain assets vests in the state, to be administered on behalf of the nation and generations yet to come. The historical survey of the Roman concepts of res publicae and res omnium communes indicated that although this doctrine is not part of South Africa's common law heritage, principles underlying the doctrine found application in South African law in respect of the seashore. The conclusion was reached that the doctrine has indeed been incorporated in South African mineral law by the MPRDA, constituting a new mineral law regime in the country. Due to the fact that a new mineral law dispensation was introduced, mineral rights as they existed in the previous mineral law dispensation were annihilated. It was, therefore, necessary to determine whether this annihilation resulted in the expropriation of property. Consequently the content of the concept 'expropriation' was studied in order to determine whether the previously held mineral rights were expropriated. The study indicated that expropriation entails the acquisition of property by the state, but that ample room exists for the development of the concept of constructive expropriation. Based on the information gained on the concept of expropriation, the consequences ensuing from the MPRDA for the holders of common law mineral rights and old order rights and the impact of the MPRDA on ownership of landowners were analysed. It was indicated that the extent of the deprivation brought about by the MPRDA varies between expropriation and the regulation of mining activities. The significance of section 3 of the MPRDA for the people of South Africa was analysed and it was found that the newly introduced doctrine can be applied to the advantage of the nation as a whole. A separate section of the research entailed a limited comparative analysis of Canadian mining law that focused on constitutional jurisdiction over minerals in the Canadian mining regime and the taking of property interests in minerals. It is proposed that the South African expropriation concept should develop along the lines followed in Canadian jurisprudence. After considering the above mentioned aspects, the final conclusion of the study is that the concepts introduced by and the consequences emanating from the implementation of section 3 of the MPRDA are constitutionally justifiable.
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