Mosebenzi Zwane. Picture: ALON SKUY/THE TIMES
Mosebenzi Zwane. Picture: ALON SKUY/THE TIMES

The Department of Mineral Resources is alleged by the Chamber of Mines to have frozen all mineral and prospecting right applications as well as rights transfers despite the moratorium proposed by mines minister Mosebenzi Zwane being open for comment.

In a statement attributed to chamber president Mxolisi Mgojo, the chamber said the department’s head office had instructed all regional offices to stop processing mineral right applications submitted after July 19, the date on which Zwane gazetted the proposal.

"This moratorium will effectively freeze investment, prevent many companies from restructuring and may lead to even more job losses in the sector," it said.

"It flies in the face of the calls by the industry’s trade unions for the moratorium proposal to be withdrawn and in terms of the chamber’s urgent court interdict application to have the notice and proposed moratorium stopped from being implemented and thereafter reviewed and set aside," it said.

The chamber has lodged an urgent interdict to stop the proposal. The matter appears in court on August 4, the same day the window for comment on the proposal closes.

The department denied the chamber’s allegations.

"No decision has been taken by the minister of mineral resources to implement the moratorium. The statement issued by the Chamber of Mines today is therefore misinformed," said department spokeswoman Ayanda Shezi.

Zwane has said he wants to restrict all new mining and prospecting rights as well as mineral rights transfers between companies while the suspended third iteration of the Mining Charter is contested in court by the chamber, which argues the document outlining transformation of the mining sector is unworkable, confused and unrealistic, with the potential to cause immense damage to the sector.

The South African mining industry is in dire straits, with 70,000 jobs lost in the past five years and numerous companies now saying they are cutting jobs, the biggest being AngloGold Ashanti, which is cutting up to 8.500 jobs, or a third of its local workforce, as it closes two old and unprofitable mines.

The chamber has warned that more than 100,000 jobs could be lost if the charter is implemented in its current form.

The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), which supported the third charter, called for Zwane’s removal because of the proposed moratorium, fearing the consequences for jobs.

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