Cyril Ramaphosa, SA’s new president, committed his government to ending the impasse around the Mining Charter, which maps out racial transformation of the sector, and finalises amendments to the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act that have been in process since 2012.

Ramaphosa’s comments in his maiden state of the nation address (Sona) come as the Chamber of Mines is scheduled to meet the Department of Mineral Resources and Minister Mosebenzi Zwane, in court on Monday to review and set aside the now-suspended third iteration of the charter.  That was gazetted in June 2017 and deepened uncertainty in the mining sector.

The chamber has been clear that it will continue the court process as long as the charter has not been withdrawn, pointing out that the charter had numerous deficiencies and flaws, violating the Constitution, Companies Act and good business.

While Ramaphosa did not say the charter would be withdrawn, he said he wanted negotiation between companies, unions and communities together with the government, to “grow this sector, to attract new investment, to create jobs and set this industry on a new path of transformation and sustainability.”

“This year, we will intensify engagements with all stakeholders on the Mining Charter to ensure it is truly and effectively an instrument to sustainably transform the face of mining in SA,” he said. “By working together in genuine partnership, which is underscored by trust and a shared vision, I’m certain we will be able to resolve the current impasse and agree on a charter that both accelerates transformation and grows this vital sector of our economy.”

The amendment bill was advanced and there “was an indication by Parliament the bill will reasonably be finalised during the first quarter of 2018”.

“The bill, once enacted into law, will entrench existing regulatory certainty, provide for security of tenure and the advance of socioeconomic interests of all South Africans,” he said.

The chamber and department are awaiting the judgment in a second case heard before the High Court in Pretoria in November that sought a declaratory order from the court on whether mining companies had to perpetually top up their black ownership levels to 26%, or if past deals no longer in existence counted towards empowerment credits.

The chamber, whose members say past deals must count, has pointed out the enormous cost and disadvantage to existing shareholders of perpetually having to top up empowerment levels.

The chamber said while it would study Ramaphosa’s speech in detail, its initial response was to “welcome the recognition by the President of the mining industry as ‘an effective instrument to sustainably transform the face of mining in SA'.”

“We particularly welcome the President’s commitment to a new phase of engagement with stakeholders in the industry – and others - on a new Mining Charter. Ultimately a new Mining Charter must be developed and resolved through negotiation, with representation by a broad range of stakeholders – government, business, labour and communities,” it said.​

Ramaphosa said that mining should be seen as a sunrise industry that had massive unrealised potential for growth and job creation.

With Linda Ensor