Mineral Resources Minister Mosebenzi Zwane has promised to release what he called a revolutionary new Mining Charter within a few weeks.
The mining industry and civil society organisations monitoring mining have been waiting for a year to see a final update of the Broad Based Socio Economic Empowerment Charter for the South African Mining Industry.
Speaking to reporters ahead of his budget speech to Parliament on Tuesday, Zwane said he had taken a year to listen to government departments, the mining industry and civil society about their concerns over the draft released in April 2016.
“In a few weeks from now, it is going to be gazetted and I can tell you that it is going to be one of the (most) revolutionary tools to be ever seen on the South African soil, balanced with the feelings of investors, because we are a responsible government,” he said.
The version that is gazetted would be final and binding, Zwane said.
He declined to give any details about the contents of the new Charter, saying only: “It will empower the people of South Africa, that we are sure of.”
The Charter, which is required in terms of the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act (MPRDA), defines the minimum benefit to South Africans, including mine workers and communities living with mining, from mining of the resources held by the State on behalf of the nation.
It also sets standards for the consultation of mining communities about these benefits.
Amongst its existing provisions is a requirement that at least 26 per cent of any mining operation must be owned by black South Africans. Zwane did not respond to a question about a possible increase in the black ownership threshold.
The draft Charter published in 2016 sought to pre-empt the outcome of a court application to resolve the question whether a company that has once achieved the 26 per cent threshold should be responsible for maintaining that level of black ownership.
The 2016 draft dismissed the industry’s call for a once empowered, always empowered policy and proposed that each company should ensure that its black ownership is maintained.
The Chamber of Mines, which represents mine owners, told Fin24 in April that the application for a declaratory order on the issue had been put on hold pending the release of the new charter, but CEO Roger Baxter said the Chamber might press on with the case if its position was ignored.
“The issue of once empowered, always empowered has been taken care of,” Zwane said. “As to whether it is in favour or against, I would want to divulge once I have gazetted the Charter.”
Parliament’s committee programme said earlier this week that the Charter would be presented on May 24, but Zwane said he would not make that deadline.
“We are still engaging locally and abroad with investors on this Charter and we seem to find a footing. Let me tell you that 85 per cent of the charter to 90 per cent finds common ground.
“But you will also remember that the 10 per cent will also accommodate other views because, as I have said, we have consulted with more than 60 stakeholders. We have tried to allow people’s views to come up in this Charter, instead of government dictating all the time how people must be treated,” he said.