The victory claimed by the Chamber of Mines this week, when the High Court in Gauteng upheld its interpretation of the "once empowered, always empowered" principle, may be a hollow one as there is still uncertainty over how this will be applied in the mining sector. Analysts are also divided as to whether the ruling will be a blow to transformation. On Wednesday the court held, in a declaratory order, that mining companies could claim recognition for previous black economic empowerment transactions that had helped them reach the industry's 26% ownership threshold, even if empowerment partners had subsequently sold out. The Department of Mineral Resources had argued that companies were to perpetually top up empowerment shareholdings that had fallen below 26% for the duration of the mining right. But two judges of the three who deliberated on the case disagreed, saying that companies could not be penalised for falling below the threshold unless the empowerment threshold was specified ...

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