South Africa Mines Said to Seek Expedited Empowerment Ruling

  • Mines chamber seeks early decision on third-party application
  • Government wants mines to retain minimum 26% black ownership

South Africa’s Chamber of Mines asked a court to expedite a case over black ownership laws less than two weeks after the government published new draft proposals on the matter, according to a person familiar with the process.

The chamber asked the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria, the capital, whether its members have to ensure that their assets are 26 percent owned by blacks even if some of the black shareholders later sell their stakes. The group represents the largest mining companies in South Africa, including Anglo American Plc, Sibanye Gold Ltd. and Impala Platinum Holdings Ltd.

The court reserved judgment on March 15 about whether a third party, Johannesburg-based law firm Malan Scholes Inc., may consolidate a separate case with that of the Chamber of Mines, which has taken the Department of Mineral Resources to the court.

The chamber wrote to Deputy Judge President of the North Gauteng High Court Aubrey Ledwaba to speed up the decision on Malan Scholes’ application, said the person, who isn’t authorized to speak about the matter.

Representatives from the mining industry and the department are meeting Tuesday “to exchange information and views, and to resolve any differences of opinion around a wide range of issues” including the Mining Charter, Charmane Russell, an external spokeswoman for the chamber at Russell & Associates, said by e-mail.

Draft Proposals

The government published draft proposals on April 15 stating that mines must retain a minimum of 26 percent black ownership. Mining executives have argued this will lead to existing investors’ stakes being continually diluted. These so-called empowerment requirements are aimed at redressing economic disparities caused by apartheid.

South Africa’s push for increased black ownership of the mining industry, which accounts for almost half of the country’s exports, is part of an effort to address the legacy of apartheid that locked the black majority out of key industries. The country’s mining charter sets targets for companies to boost the number of black people in management and improve training and benefits for communities near mines.

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