Mineral resources minister Gwede Mantashe at the Joburg Indaba 2018. Picture: WYNAND VAN DER MERWE
Mineral resources minister Gwede Mantashe at the Joburg Indaba 2018. Picture: WYNAND VAN DER MERWE

There will be no changes to the Mining Charter, certainly within the next five years following years of uncertainty, mineral resources minister Gwede Mantashe said on Wednesday.

By gazetting the third iteration of the charter on September 27, after starting talks with the Minerals Council SA in February to scrap the gazetted and subsequently suspended version by his predecessor Mosebenzi Zwane in June 2017, Mantashe has brought a degree of certainty to the local mining industry.

Mantashe said at the two-day Joburg Indaba mining conference that he had no plans to introduce a fourth charter in the next five years, and declined to comment on a 10-year period because, "I might not be around."

The charter, which spells out the obligations of mining and prospecting rights holders to racially transform their ownership, management structures and procurement practices, was first introduced in 2004 and amended in 2010. 

The charter was applauded by delegates at the Indaba as a document that the industry could work with, and which was a vast improvement on Zwane's shambolic charter, which knocked R51bn off JSE-listed mining companies' value in a single day when it was gazetted.

"Now that we've produced the charter, we can get back to the business of mining," Mantashe told about 600 delegates ranging from CEOs, management and financiers to investors and lawyers.

He urged the industry to change the narrative it was putting out in public, saying there was a focus on the negative, while positive development largely went unnoticed. "As a result of that, everybody thinks this is an industry that destroys jobs — that it's a heartless industry. We must change that. If we change our narrative, the overseas perception of our industry will change," he said.

In response to Mantashe's comments, CEO of the Minerals Council SA Roger Baxter said if the rest of the cabinet had similar "passion and enthusiasm" for their portfolios, "this economy will fly". 

The nature of the relationship between the council and the department of mineral resources had changed markedly over the past seven months, Baxter said, noting that a year ago the council had boycotted Zwane's appearances at the Indaba.

"He got up to nefarious activities," he said.

The council took a conscious decision to distance itself from Zwane and his officials, leading to "overt and covert retaliation against the industry, our office bearers and ourselves".

Asked about this after his address, Baxter said one of the obvious forms of this retaliation was the unlawful shut down of mines on spurious safety reasons and the use of regulations as a form of intimidation and punishment.

Mantashe said he was committed to rooting out corruption in the department and that a number of officials had either been fired or were expected to appear in court to face charges of corruption. Most notably, he has ordered the closure of the Mpumalanga regional office pending the outcome of an investigation into its operations.

Mantashe said he fully backed the mining of mineral sands at Xolobeni on SA's east coast, arguing that it was an impoverished area that needed development and jobs.

seccombea@businesslive.co.za