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09 Mar 2009 15:05
Agri SA has welcomed a Pretoria High Court ruling that the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act is effectively expropriating unused, old order mineral rights.
It would compel the state to pay compensation or reinstate ownership of expropriated mineral rights, said Agri SA chief executive Hans van der Merwe on Monday.
He described the ruling as a “significant landmark” in Agri SA’s attempts to protect property rights and point out errors at policy and regulatory level.
The state had argued that mineral right holders could pursue other administrative options before approaching courts for a decision on expropriation and that there was no talk of expropriation, he said.
However, Judge Willie Hartzenberg had found that the Act gave no recognition to the holding of existing mineral rights.
“Insofar as they have not been exploited they simply disappear in thin air,” he said.
He concluded that the Act gave old order mineral rights holders the right to limit their losses.
Van der Merwe said the judge’s interpretation of the Act recognised that holders of mineral rights could be deprived of their rights and that such deprivation, together with the state’s assumption of custodianship and administration of those rights, created the expropriation of those rights.
“He finds, therefore, that it is in fact possible for the holders of the old order mineral rights to prove that their rights have been expropriated by the coming into force of the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act.”
He said Judge Hartzenberg had also found that the Act allowed a claimant to turn to the court in order to confirm expropriation, and that a decision on expropriation was not an administrative matter.
While the verdict opened the door for many old order mineral rights holders to claim these had been expropriated, Van der Merwe said each would have to prove the extent of the losses, as required in the Expropriation Act.
Agri SA would continue doing whatever was necessary to uphold and establish the verdict as a legal principle, in the interest of mineral right holders who suffered extensive losses due to expropriation without compensation, he said.
The Department of Minerals and Energy could not be reached for comment.—Sapa
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