Mapping the permit process

1 April 2020

The process of awarding mining licences can be complex and complicated. 

Mining rights are often governed by multiple pieces of legislation, running hundreds of pages long. Sometimes national and provincial laws overlap and dictate different parts of the process. Often, it is unclear whafees need to be paid and when; and who is responsible for the various steps along the way.  Sometimes, officials working within the government departments involved do not know the full process, which leads to inefficiencies and confusion for all involved.  

This confusion creates corruption risks.  
  • If the steps in the licence application and evaluation process are not clear or transparentgovernment officials could solicit, or mining companies could offer, bribes to speed up the process or get a favourable outcome. 
  • If the decisions of licensing staff are not regulated by clear criteria or are vulnerable to ministerial influence, there is a risk that applications might be approved for political or personal reasons. 
  • If the licensing authority is inadequately funded and there aren’t enough skilled staffthis increases the likelihood of bottlenecks and delays, which can create an incentive for applicants to offer bribes or facilitation payments. 
  • If the mining licence register has information gaps and is not transparent, applications could be manipulated, their paperwork could be poorly scrutinised, and the ‘first come, first serve’ principle could be breached.
  • If it is not clear when communities are supposed to be engaged, people living in or near proposed mine sites may not understand that they have a right to express their views and impose conditions on how the mine should proceed. If it is not clear how these negotiations are agreed, or if local elites control this negotiation process, there is a risk powerful individuals can receive all the benefits of mining while the broader community is left to bear the costs. If there are no clear, binding requirements for consultation with the community, there is a risk that people can lose their land, their water and their livelihoods. To learn more about corruption risks in community consultations, read our case study.

Read more about the corruption risks arising from the weaknesses of the licensing process in this case study

Corruption produces very few winners and a lot of losers. 

While initially causing confusion, frustration and delays, the long-term effects can be disastrous.

When the due diligence process is not done properly, when environmental and social impact assessments are not checked thoroughly, or when community consultation is not taken seriously – these can all result in polluted air and water, communities losing access to their land and worsening poverty and insecurity

The first step to reducing corruption risks is to improve transparency. 

We have developed a series of ‘maps’ that show, step-by-step, how a mining or exploration licence is granted in different countries.  These maps simplify the complex process by highlighting the key steps involved, the key actors involved, where in the process fees are meant to be paid, and how long a particular step is supposed to take.  

These maps are designed as tools to help people understand the process – whether they be in the mining industry, government, civil society, or a member of the community living near a proposed mine. 

This clarity helps people understand where the process could be improved and where  problems might arise.  

For example, glancing at any of these maps, it will be immediately apparent that community consultation typically appears at the very end of the process, after the licence has been rubber-stamped. For anyone who believes people have the right to be consulted – meaningfully – before a mining project goes ahead, this would be cause for concern. 


Tackling corruption together 

A chain is only as strong as its weakest link. Fixing these weaknesses requires everyone’s participation. This is why our approach to tackling corruption is to collaborate with everyone involved.  

TI Chapters have done an enormous amount of research and have had extensive conversations with mining companies, government officials, civil society groups and community members. This research has revealed a lot – but it has also revealed just how many information gaps remain. Our aspiration is to fill these gapsWe want to continue these conversations and continue engaging with the people involved to make this information more transparent and accessible for everyone. 

Across our global network, Transparency International Chapters in ‘phase 2’ of this project – those using their research as a platform for action to stop the corruption risks in the mining awards process – are bringing together companies, governments, civil society and community groups to speak frankly with each other about how the process of awarding mining permits can be improved. Through these workshops, roundtables and meetings, many of them are understanding more clearly than ever before how the process of awarding mining licences works, where the corruption risks can be found, and how they can each do their bit to prevent corruption. 

As we continue to have these conversations, we will update these maps with more detail. We encourage you to contact us if you have any information you’d like to share. 

These designs were produced with the help of Nook Studios,‘a community of storytellers and makers on a mission to drive transparency and participation in open government through research, design and civic technology.’

Explore our mining licence process maps

Licence map Argentina


Cambodia licence map



Mining in Ghana


Kenya mining licence map


Mining in Kyrgyzstan


Mining in Madagascar


licence map Mexico


Sierra Leone mining licence process map

sierra leone

South Africa - mining and prospecting