Kumba Given Three Months to Seek Disputed Sishen Rights by Court

Kumba Iron Ore Ltd. has three months to apply to take over disputed 21.4 percent rights to Africa’s biggest iron-ore mine, South Africa’s highest court said, as it reversed rulings that had handed the whole site to the company.

The Constitutional Court granted the Department of Mineral Resources an appeal against rulings ordering the state to award all rights to Sishen Iron Ore, a unit of Anglo American Plc’s Kumba, according to an e-mailed copy of the decision. At the same time it said Kumba, which holds the rest of the rights, is the only party capable of applying for the government’s stake.

The department earlier granted the stake in the rights to Imperial Crown Trading 289 (Pty) Ltd. after a permit belonging to ArcelorMittal South Africa Ltd. expired. Those rights were revoked in favor of Johannesburg-based Kumba in 2011, a decision upheld in March this year by the Supreme Court of Appeal.

A separate deal last month in which the company will sell as much as 6.25 million metric tons of iron ore a year to AMSA on discounted terms hinges on Kumba’s full ownership of rights.

“The old order mining right reverted to the state, as custodian of the right,” Deputy Chief Justice Dikgang Moseneke said in today’s judgment. “I conclude that Sishen is the only party competent to apply for and be granted the mining right.”

Previous judgments ruled that Kumba’s earlier conversion of a 78.6 percent stake from so-called old order rights to new order rights had been adequate to give it the entire stake.