If President Cyril Ramaphosa seriously wants to woo US$100bn in new capital, as he loftily claims, he should have paid closer attention to the draft mining charter released last week. The charter is meant to encourage companies to boost black investors in the industry. It is a mission statement for transforming a legacy sector that was, for decades, the emblem of apartheid brutality, characterised by exploitative migrant labour, notoriously heedless disregard for safety, and unequal distribution of benefits. As mining minister Gwede Mantashe put it last week: "Black South Africans cannot be spectators — they must benefit and accumulate wealth." But the mining sector has changed a lot since the 1980s, which has made it more difficult for anyone, white or black, to accumulate wealth. Even though SA’s mineral reserves are estimated at a peerless $2.5 trillion, runaway costs (electricity and labour mostly) mean that most gold and platinum mines are cash-flow negative today.

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