Picture: ISTOCK
Picture: ISTOCK

In a surprise development, and one which perhaps indicates an awareness of a weak legal case, the Department of Mineral Resources late last night said it had withdrawn Mineral Resources Minister Mosebenzi Zwane's proposed moratorium on the issuance of new mining and prospecting rights and the transfer of mineral rights.

Citing submissions received before Friday's closing date, the department said it had taken note of the feedback, in particular from junior miners.

"As a result, and based on the reasoned submissions made, the Department of Mineral Resources will not pursue the moratorium. The department will instead opt for other legal instruments at its disposal, in line with the MPRDA and other applicable legislation, to achieve its objectives of socioeconomic development," the department said.

The last-minute halt to the proposed moratorium came as the Chamber of Mines was to launch an urgent interdict in court on Friday to halt Zwane's actions.

It is likely that the chamber will indefinitely postpone its interdict and the parties might seek some sort of deal.

Zwane's proposal, gazetted on July 19, caused outrage in the mining sector and the National Union of Mineworkers, which said it wanted Zwane removed from his portfolio.

Zwane faces another two legal challenges from the chamber. The chamber has sought to interdict and seek a judicial review of the now-suspended third iteration of the Mining Charter, gazetted on June 15, and a declaratory order process on the once-empowered always-empowered principle of the first two versions of the charter.

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