The Department of Mineral Resources (DMR) is failing to act in the best economic interests of the people of South Africa by continually trying to organise a separate kingdom for itself.
Those currently leading the DMR are painting themselves into a corner in a manner that is going to hurt this country’s citizens.
South Africa is currently in need of experienced minerals administration. The industry is shrinking and the prospects for growth are fading.
The opposite should be true because South Africa’s mineral endowment is second to none.
But, no matter how great the endowment, it is not worth a cent to the people of South Africa if it remains buried in the ground, which will be the case under the current minerals leadership.
What the DMR is promoting is an atmosphere of hostility, which will end up with no winners, except in the other mining jurisdictions of the world, where there will be plenty of winners.
In Canada, this month, members of the Mining Association of Canada last week committed to implementing the Voluntary Principles on Human Rights, a world first for a mining association.
That is the sort of target the DMR should be setting for the Chamber of Mines of South Africa, rather than continually side- swiping it and going it alone.
The Voluntary Principles were created in 2000 to help mining companies balance the obligation to respect human rights while protecting the assets and people at their operations.
In Nigeria, last month, the international board of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) recognised the country’s efforts to improve natural resource governance through transparency.
That is the sort of standard the DMR should be encouraging Cabinet to set for South Africa to promote open and accountable management of natural resources.
The DMR should be goading the Chamber of Mines of South Africa to throw its full weight behind complete openness in the payments to government of its mining company members for all to see how much the industry contributes in taxation and royalty payments, rather than being unilaterally gazette happy.
If Australia can join the EITI, surely the DMR can persuade Cabinet to follow suit in South Africa.
Instead, it sets out to create a tax revenue stream for itself, a department that operates opaquely, refusing even to reveal mineral rights awards.
Instead of endorsing a director-general bereft of any minerals experience as it did last Wednesday, Cabinet should be insisting that the DMR set the highest transparency hurdles for itself and the mining industry.
In that way, it will attract the level of investment the industry is crying out for, and keep out opportunists and fly-by-nights.
While the Chamber of Mines will look foolish if it complains about a DMR imposing world best practice, it is duty- bound to fight tooth and nail against the low-road administration that the DMR is proposing.