Mineral Resources Minister Gwede Mantashe. Picture: SOWETAN
Mineral Resources Minister Gwede Mantashe. Picture: SOWETAN

New Mineral Resources Minister Gwede Mantashe would not be pinned down on whether the government would push required black ownership of mining companies beyond the 30% that is under negotiation with the industry, labour and communities — which has increased from the 14-year-old level of 26%.

Mantashe said at a media briefing in Pretoria on Tuesday that he wanted the new Mining Charter completed and gazetted before the end of June this year, and the promulgation of the amendments to the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act to be expedited.

He singled out regulatory and policy certainty as a priority for the start of his tenure.

However, he was vague when asked whether the 30% target would be nudged up.

He said the 30% set out in the controversial — and now suspended — third iteration of the charter, which the Chamber of Mines took to court to be reviewed and scrapped, was not an issue at talks between industry and organised labour at the weekend.

“There is no problem around the 30%. That’s it,” he said.

“Whether we will ever revise that issue is an issue that is ongoing,” he said. “My argument is 30% — and people were arguing 30% is not substantial — and I said to them (at the weekend) 30% is not substantial if it’s against 100%. But if you move to 30% from zero, that is a substantial move.

“My argument is 30%, if we agree on it, let’s meet it and comply with that.

“If we grow it then it will be an issue that is happening systematically as we empower people, and as people get empowered there will be more capacity to grow the ownership of disadvantaged South Africans.”

Mantashe — who was sworn in as mines minister on February 26, replacing the divisive and controversial Mosebenzi Zwane — said after a meeting of the Department of Mineral Resources, organised business and labour at the weekend, that two teams had been set up to explore transformation and competitiveness. They will report back in three weeks, on April 10.

Mantashe said the department was “not married” to the third charter, which Zwane suspended after the Chamber of Mines took it to court to have it reviewed and set aside.

The chamber had said before Mantashe’s appointment that it would not engage in talks around the third charter and would ideally like to create a completely new transformation document.

Mantashe said on Tuesday that there were a lot of overlaps between the third charter and the second version, which is currently in force, defending the decision to use the badly drafted and damaging third charter.

There had been a “tough engagement” with the chamber at weekend talks around using the third version as the basis for negotiations to create a new charter, he said.

The teams drawn up from each stakeholder group would address the chamber’s concerns with the charter, he said, and any “reasonable” objections would be considered and possibly changed in the charter.

Mantashe did not indicate any willingness to move away from charters, which are reviewed and changed every five to 10 years.

The new draft charter would be presented to communities in mining provinces at centralised meetings as well as to major labour-sending areas to incorporate community feedback in the new charter, Mantashe said.

A number of community representatives tore into Matashe at the media briefing, demanding they be incorporated in the formulation of the draft charter, but the former general secretary of the National Union of Mineworkers and the governing ANC stuck to his commitment, saying communities would be afforded time and opportunity to make their inputs.

Regarding the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union’s (Amcu’s) absence at the weekend talks, he said the negotiations would not be held hostage by any party and would proceed without them regardless. He pointed out that Amcu had been invited.

He vowed to crack down on corruption in the department, which was seen as deeply problematic during Zwane’s tenure since 2015.

He also committed not to use safety stoppages, implemented by departmental officials under Section 54 of the Mine Health and Safety Act, as a tool to “manipulate decisions”.

Royal Bafokeng Platinum endured a number of safety stoppages and special attention after it cancelled the contract of JIC Mining, a Gupta-related company. Then-minister Zwane was close to the Gupta family.

Sibanye-Stillwater successfully overturned a safety stoppage at one of its gold mines in court, sending a clear message to the department’s safety inspectorate to be more circumspect in its issuance of closure notices.

“We will use the stoppages to ensure more safety in the industry,” Mantashe said.