Gwede Mantashe. Picture: PUXLEY MAKGATHO
Gwede Mantashe. Picture: PUXLEY MAKGATHO

Talks on a new Mining Charter were about 80% completed and the new document guiding the transformation of SA’s mining sector would be gazetted in May, giving the industry much-needed policy confidence, said Mineral Resources Minister Gwede Mantashe, underlining his mandate from President Cyril Ramaphosa to bring certainty to the sector.

The Department of Mineral Resources would not appeal against a high court finding in favour of the Chamber of Mines’ application for a declaratory order on the continuing consequences of past deals and that mining companies were not obliged to perpetually top up their black ownership levels to at least 26% in line with the first two charters, Mantashe said. He was speaking at the one-day Jo’burg Indaba platinum conference in Johannesburg on Tuesday.

His comments to delegates preceded the next round of talks between the department and industry players on the formulation of a new charter, raising hope among some delegates that the disastrous third version of the charter — drawn up under former mines minister Mosebenzi Zwane and suspended shortly after it was gazetted in June 2017 — would be investor friendly.

In situations of speculation, I don’t think we should punish the company

Although bound by confidentiality agreements, which meant there was little news coming from Tuesday’s charter talks, trade union Solidarity’s general secretary, Gideon du Plessis, said that good progress was being made.

"Although the controversial version of the charter … serves as the basis for negotiations, the next version should be radically different from the Zwane version," he said. "The Zwane version contains many unimplementable and unrealistic clauses and is fraught with flaws and contradictions, which can now … be rectified."

Mantashe told the 160 senior industry figures at the conference he had no tolerance for empowerment partners who "speculated" on their shares in a mining company and sold quickly to make an easy profit.

"In those situations of speculation, I don’t think we should punish the company, but equally we don’t want mining companies to dump empowerment partners as they wish," he said.

"Every case must be dealt with on its merits and we’ll do that. If we must go to court every day, we will go to court every day," he said, when asked about how the department would assess companies’ compliance with empowerment ownership pegged at 26% in the first two charters and 30% in the third charter — a level the department is unlikely to revise downwards at these talks.

Long-term charter

One executive said the Chamber of Mines was likely to push for a long-term charter of a decade, cementing the ownership levels and obligations on companies for that length of time instead of changing requirements every five years or when a new minister was appointed.

Mantashe said one of his key tasks when appointed as mines minister in February by "Buffalo" — a nickname given to Ramaphosa — was to restore trust between the department and a wide range of stakeholders, including the industry, labour and communities, he said, while at the same time expedite regulatory and policy certainty to give the sector a base from which to grow.

Mantashe said he had spoken to the National Council of Provinces to expedite amendments to the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act that have been in the works since 2012 and returned by former president Jacob Zuma in 2015 to correct what his legal team said at the time were constitutional problems with the document presented to him for signing into law.