• Government wants wider public participation in mining industry
  • Mineral resources minister was appointed in September

South Africa plans to use the rout in commodities prices to buy assets to widen public participation in the mining industry, Mineral Resources Minister Mosebenzi Zwane said.

The government is also seeking to develop operations from mining rights that have been returned by companies, especially in coal and platinum, he told reporters Tuesday at Harmony Gold Mining Co.’s Doornkop mine 30 kilometers (19 miles) west of Johannesburg.

"The issue of low commodity prices gives us the opportunity to actually identify the assets that will enable us to fast-track transformation and empowerment," he said. "Once we can buy these assets we can then be able to say to women of South Africa, young people, males, co-operatives, businesses -- can you take them forward and build something?"

Zwane was appointed mining minister last month, having had no experience in the industry or national politics. He took over from Ngoako Ramatlhodi, who held the position for 16 months. He said one of his key issues would be to build on Ramatlhodi’s progress on transforming the mining industry to make it more inclusive of black people and others who were disadvantaged under white-only rule that ended in 1994.

Zwane also said he’ll help end policy uncertainty by aiding the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act through parliament. The government will work "hand in hand" with the industry to improve safety, he said.

Mining accounts for more than half of South Africa’s exports and employs about 446,000 people.

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