JOHANNESBURG (miningweekly.com) – In-principle agreements have already been reached regarding certain changes to the third iteration of the Mining Charter, or Mining Charter 3, during negotiations held over the weekend, says trade union Solidarity.
Mineral Resources Minister Gwede Mantashe and his deputy Godfrey Oliphant met with industry representatives over the weekend to discuss the charter.
“During the negotiations, Solidarity emphasised, among other things, the retrenchments that may arise from the charter, as well as the unconstitutionality of the charter’s provisions that appointments must be made on the basis of national demographics and white employees be excluded from employee stock ownership plans (Esops).
“In reaction to this, the government representatives acknowledged that the Esop clause was problematic and that it would have a divisive effect among employees,” Solidarity general secretary Gideon du Plessis said in a media release issued on Monday.
He added that all parties involved had committed themselves to the finalisation of the charter within the three-month timeframe agreed upon by Mantashe and President Cyril Ramaphosa.
The trade union further highlighted that, as a result of the weekend’s negotiations, a mining charter task team and a competitiveness task team have been established.
The mining charter task team, comprising representatives of all interested parties, will try to settle as many as possible of the differences between the parties and to produce its first report by April 10.
Du Plessis added that the competitiveness task team would initially consider the impact of the charter on the mining industry. After implementation of the charter, it will become a standing committee focusing on aspects that will improve competitiveness and sustainability in the mining industry.
Democratic Alliance Mineral Resources shadow Minister James Lorimer, meanwhile, was not as pleased with the outcomes of the negotiations.
“Mantashe indicated that the widely criticised Mining Charter 3 will be the basis of the negotiation of a new charter with industry. There was hope that he would start discussions using Mining Charter 2 as a baseline. That would have sent a strong signal to investors that the African National Congress government was ready to get its mining house in order and investment into South African mines would start flowing again,” he said.
He added that, in taking the position that he has, Mantashe has shown that mining policy is just business as usual and that starting negotiations around the unrealistic, punitive and, in some cases, illegal provisions of Charter 3, would send the wrong signal to the industry.
“Business as usual means the continuation of tightening restrictions on mining operations in pursuit of government’s programme of racial transformation within the industry,” he said.
Lorimer noted that the manner in which this programme has been implemented has been at a huge cost to business, and one of the reasons that South Africa is seen as such an unfavourable place for mining investment.
“This has led to a shrinking industry which has lost more than 70 000 jobs in five years. During the weekend Mantashe made some encouraging statements about a fresh start for the industry. Now he needs to make sure his deeds match his words,” said Lorimer.
Meanwhile, Mining Affected Communities United in Action (Wauma) lamented in a statement that the weekend’s meeting had taken place without mining affected communities’ input, despite an order by the Pretoria North High Court, which specifically noted that mining communities, and specifically the applicants to the case in which the Mining Charter was challenged, should be consulted on the formulation of the charter.
“It is our understanding of this judgment that the court has specifically noted that mining affected communities cannot only be consulted at the end of the process but that they should be involved in its formulation.”
The organisation said its exclusion from this process was not only in counterpoint to the court's order, it also comes after our attorneys wrote to both the President and the Minister to engage them on the next steps to be taken.
“These kind of meetings between the Department of Mineral Resources and other `important` stakeholders without communities present, are exactly the ways that injustices are perpetrated against communities,” Wauma leader Mokete Khoda said.