Mosebenzi Zwane. Picture: REUTERS
Mosebenzi Zwane. Picture: REUTERS

The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) has expressed concern at the current freeze on mining approvals pending the finalisation of the legal challenge against the new Mining Charter.

On June 15, Mineral Resources Minister Mosebenzi Zwane gazetted a controversial third version of the Mining Charter, knocking some R51bn off listed mining companies’ market capitalisation. A month later, on July 19, he gazetted a notice that he proposed restricting the granting of new mining and prospecting rights and the transfer of mineral rights between companies, the lifeblood of the mining sector.

The Chamber of Mines now has three pending legal processes against Zwane and his department. It is seeking to overturn the proposed moratorium and the third Mining Charter. The chamber is also hoping for a declaratory order about whether past empowerment deals count towards empowerment credits or whether companies must perpetually top up empowerment holdings, as the department wants them to do.

In a statement on Wednesday, the NUM confined itself to the Mining Charter and to the freeze on mining approvals. The union has previously supported implementation of the charter. "We are of the view that such [a] moratorium will negatively affect our members through job losses, since there will be no Section 11 approvals taking on change of ownership and new mining or prospecting rights," it said, adding that "all of this is taking place while we are faced with enormous job losses in various operations amounting to close to 20,000 affected employees".

Among mining companies due to shed jobs is Bokoni Platinum, a joint venture between Anglo American Platinum and Atlatsa Resources, which has given notice of its intention to retrench 2,651 workers.

The NUM said it will urge Zwane to drop the moratorium with immediate effect, not least because, "the move will definitely be found wanting by the court of law, as it deviates from the principles and objects of the Minerals and Petroleum Resources Development Act 2002".

The union also said "the current impasse over the implementation of the Mining Charter has reached alarming levels" and it is thus calling on the government "either through the presidential mining consultative forum or other multi-stakeholder initiates to convene an urgent meeting of all stakeholders to find an amicable solution that includes transformation of the industry with employees and communities".

"The silence from the Public Investment Corporation and Industrial Development Corporation ... is shockingly problematic, as they seem to be passengers in this whole saga," said the NUM, which pledged to work around the clock to ensure that all existing platforms of dialogue between the parties are exhausted, with the aim of saving jobs and bringing stability to the mining industry.

"The current cowboy-style battle between the industry and the Department of Mineral Resources will, unfortunately, have three guaranteed victims, the employees, communities (host and labour-sending areas,) and South Africans at large," it said. "We reiterate our earlier stance on supporting the much-needed mining industry transformation instrument, which the union and its members feel [is] embodied in the current withdrawn Mining Charter."

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