Frans Cronje. Picture: MARTIN RHODES
Frans Cronje. Picture: MARTIN RHODES

SA’s proposed changes to its mining laws and the Mining Charter threaten to set back black economic empowerment, and the industry should be far more proactive in designing innovative legislation.

Speaking at the Joburg Indaba mining conference last week, Frans Cronje, CE of the Institute of Race Relations, said this was not the time for name-calling as relations between the Chamber of Mines and Mineral Resources Minister Mosebenzi Zwane plumbed all-time lows.

"If essential policy reforms are to be achieved, the mining industry must play a leading role in pushing for their implementation," Cronje said.

The industry has been hoping to ‘get along by going along’," he said.

His comments came shortly after the chamber boycotted the conference’s gala dinner due to the attendance of Zwane who had attacked the chamber for earlier denouncing him at an Australian mining conference.

Cronje urged the industry not to roll over in the face of a hostile minister and Department of Mineral Resources, which the chamber says sidelined it in formulating the third version of a deeply flawed charter. "We have been in this business for decades and can assure you that appeasement does not work. Hostile policy makers will pocket each concession made, before pushing on with the next damaging intervention," he said.

Part of the criticism of the chamber’s engagement with the department in drawing up the second version of the charter in 2010 was that it failed to clarify the consequences of historic deals.

"The way out of this impasse lies, not in tinkering with the MPRDA [Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act] and the current mining charter, and not in belittling and insulting members of the Cabinet, but rather in a positive, utterly creative, and bold new policy approach," Cronje said. "One that captures, not just the minds of policy makers, but the hearts of ordinary South Africans."

The third charter "will have the effect of reducing living standards and cutting off channels [for people to get] out of poverty – a grotesque outcome for a policy drafted in the supposed interests of reversing the historical inequalities laid down in our apartheid past", he said.

seccombea@bdfm.co.za

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