Mosebenzi Zwane. Picture: GCIS
Mosebenzi Zwane. Picture: GCIS

The South African mining industry will continue operating in an uncertain and damaging environment after the long-awaited review of the suspended third Mining Charter in the High Court in Pretoria was postponed to mid-February from mid-December.

The third charter knocked R51bn off the value of listed mining stocks on the JSE when it was introduced and caused deep unhappiness across the sector, which argued it was unworkable, impractical and poorly drafted.

Mineral Resources Minister Mosebenzi Zwane has argued that the charter is a tangible example of "radical economic transformation" demanded in several party quarters of the governing ANC.

The cause for the delay depended on which statement was read, with the Department of Mineral Resources saying it had been at the request of the Chamber of Mines. However, the industry body said it had been prompted by the full bench of three judges being concerned that the two days set down from December 14 would not be long enough to hear arguments from the eight applicants seeking a review of the charter.

The chamber, which is seeking the review of the charter Zwane introduced in mid-June, wants the charter to be reviewed on a number of grounds, including the lack of consultation with it by the department and that it violated clauses in the Constitution.

Zwane said the delayed review was at the request of the mining chamber.

"The prolonged legal uncertainty caused by the postponement is indeed regrettable, especially in as far as the implementation of our transformation objectives as government is concerned. We will, however, abide by the granting of the postponement," Zwane said.

The chamber denied that it had requested the postponement and said that the suggestion had instead come from the full bench of three judges. They had felt that the two days set aside in December was not enough time to hear the matter after the chamber had been joined by seven community interest groups, and so decided to have a three-day hearing starting from February 19 2018.

The community groups were granted the right a few weeks ago to join the review as co-applicants, a matter the chamber opposed, arguing that it would take up valuable time in the two days in December that the chamber and department were allocated to argue the matter.

"On Friday, 24 November 2017, counsel for the … parties now involved in the chamber’s application met with Judge Sulette Potterill to discuss the adequacy of the two days set aside for the hearing," the chamber said.

"The judge expressed concern that the two days may not be adequate. The chamber was prepared to explore the possibility of adding a third day in December to the hearing, but the judge indicated that this was not an option inter alia because the judge president had indicated that he wanted to be part of the case and was not available in December," it said.

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