Mining Lobby Opposes Joint Court Bid Over S. African Charter

  • Chamber of Mines seeks clarity on ownership rules from court
  • Law firm seeks joint-hearing to nullify mining regulations

South Africa’s Chamber of Mines said its application that the nation’s High Court decide on disputed black-ownership rules will be delayed should a separate request to nullify the country’s mining regulations be heard at the same time.

The chamber, which represents operators including Anglo American Plc and Sibanye Gold Ltd., is locked in a dispute with the Department of Mineral Resources over whether companies can claim to have met black-ownership requirements, even after beneficiaries have sold their stakes in assets. Companies’ mineral rights are issued on the condition that they adhere to a stipulation that black-owned entities control at least 26 percent of every mine as the nation tries to bridge disparities created under apartheid.

Malan Scholes Inc., a Johannesburg-based law firm, has made a separate application that the Mining Charter, which lists all the criteria that companies need to fulfill to win mineral rights, be declared unconstitutional, Hulme Scholes, a director at the firm, said by phone on Monday. The firm wants the High Court to hear both applications together as some of the issues overlap, he said.

‘Certainty Needed’

The Chamber of Mines considers itself “a partner in the Charter” and isn’t opposed to the document, Chief Executive Officer Roger Baxter said in an e-mailed statement on Monday.

“We see it as a necessary and positive feature of the process of transforming the industry,” Baxter said. “The mining industry urgently needs certainty on what the correct interpretation of the charter is.”

A judge will be asked to rule on whether the applications can be heard together should the chamber oppose it, Scholes said.

South Africa, which has the world’s biggest reserves of platinum, chrome ore and manganese, enacted the Mining Charter in 2004, compelling operators to sell part of their local assets to black South Africans by the end of 2014. Some investors that acquired the so-called empowerment stakes at discounts subsequently sold them, diluting the companies’ black shareholding.

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