South Africa Reports Making Progress on Mining Charter Dispute

  • Mineral Resources Minister has positive talks with companies
  • Chamber of Mines wants “realistic” solutions on charter

South Africa’s government and mining companies have reached broad agreement on some planned revisions to mining rules and are now moving forward on the finer details, Minister of Mineral Resources Mosebenzi Zwane said.

Anglo American Plc, AngloGold Ashanti Ltd. and other mining companies in South Africa are at loggerheads with the government over proposed changes to the Mining Charter requiring that mines be 26 percent owned by black investors, even if they subsequently sell their stakes. The government is seeking to redress the economic imbalances of whites-minority apartheid rule, which ended in 1994.

“We were able to resolve most of the sticking points, we are now dealing with the nitty gritties as to how do we structure those sticking points,” Zwane told reporters in Johannesburg said Wednesday. “Broadly, there is an understanding of issues.”

Zwane sprang a surprise by introducing the draft revisions last month, saying companies had “not embraced the spirit of the charter to the letter.” He said only “limited progress” had been made in incorporating blacks into the mining industry 22 years after the country’s first democratic elections.

More Talks

The Chamber of Mines, which represents mining companies, said talks with the government are needed to resolve the outstanding issues.

“There are a number of pillars of the revised Department of Mineral Resources version that we would want to engage on to make sure they are practical and realistic,” Roger Baxter, the chamber’s chief executive officer, told reporters. “Let’s just leave it as the engagement is continuing.”

The industry argues that the government should recognize companies that initially met the empowerment requirement even if black shareholders later sell out, in order to avoid a situation in which existing shareholding is continually diluted. The Chamber of Mines has taken the government to court, seeking a declaratory judgment on a previous version of the charter.

“The fundamental underlying reason for our court case is you cannot have a perpetual dilution of shareholders,” Baxter said.

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