Mining Charter review postponed after Ramaphosa makes good on SONA promise

South Africa President, Cyril Ramaphosa

IN a development that surely represents the death knell of mines minister, Mosebenzi Zwane’s political career, South African president, Cyril Ramaphosa, has agreed with the Chamber of Mines to postpone a High Court application to review the Mining Charter, the June 2017 document that had Zwane as its vanguard.

The Presidency said in an announcement today that it had been in discussion with the Chamber following Ramaphosa’s State of the Nation Address (SONA) on February 16 in which he promised to resolve the impasse over a redraft of the Charter. It said the Chamber had “… agreed jointly with the Department of Mineral Resources (DMR) to postpone its court application”.

The High Court application was set down for three days from February 19. “The postponement serves to allow parties the space to engage and find an amicable solution,” the Presidency said in a statement. Other applicants in the case, totalling seven parties, have not comprehensively agreed to postpone their applications.

Importantly, Lawyers for Human Rights (LHR) said seven other applicants in the case had not been”…  formally engaged by the respondent in this matter, the DMR. They have accordingly entered into no such agreement”.

“It is unfortunate that this agreement between the Chamber and the government appears to extend the pattern of exclusion that prompted our clients to intervene in this matter in the first place”, said Michael Clements, head of the Environmental Rights Programme at LHR. The LHR represents the Sefikile, Lesethleng, Babina Phuthi Ba Ga-Makola and Kgatlu communities which all host mining operations on their land.

Said Ramaphosa: “By working together, in a genuine partnership, underscored by trust and a shared vision, I am certain we will be able to resolve the current impasse and agree on a Charter that both accelerates transformation and grows this vital sector of our economy”.

The Chamber said that Ramaphosa was “… committed to resolving the impasse over the Mining Charter and to facilitate a process of developing a New Mining Charter, inclusive of all stakeholders and in the interests of the industry and the country as a whole”. The chamber said that it wanted to “… give negotiations a chance”.

“The Chamber of Mines wishes to reiterate its position that only a negotiated Mining Charter taking on board the views and inputs of all key stakeholders will enjoy the support and endorsement of all stakeholders,” it said.

Said, Mxolisi Mgojo, president of the Chamber: “We welcome the President’s intervention, and his commitment to engaging meaningfully with stakeholders in the industry – and others – on a New Mining Charter.

“Ultimately, a New Mining Charter must be developed and resolved through negotiation, with representation by a broad range of stakeholders – government, business, labour and communities.

“For the Chamber of Mines, and the industry, legal recourse was always a last resort, intended to get the parties to the table, and the sooner we do that the better for the industry and our country,” he said.

Ramaphosa dedicated part of SONA to the Mining Charter in which he pledged to “… intensify engagement on South Africa’s Mining Charter … to ensure that it is truly and effectively an instrument to sustainably transform the face of mining in South Africa”.

Ramaphosa, recently appointed South African president, said that South African mining had an “… unrealised massive potential for job and growth potential in our country”. He said it ought to be “… a sunrise industry, rather than a sunset industry”.

Said Ramaphosa: “We will revitalise our mining sector [and] with a revival in commodity prices, we are determined to work with mining companies and with unions and communities, to grow this sector to attract new investment to create jobs and set the industry on a new path of transformation and sustainability”.