Government open to amending Mining Charter

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Government is willing to amend the current Mining Charter should there be a need to do so, Mineral Resources Minister Gwede Mantashe said on Tuesday.

“Our commitment is that anything that is reasonably raised in the objections will be looked into… If something is genuine, we will change it but we cannot start [on] a clean [slate] and say there’s no charter,” said Minister Mantashe.

Briefing reporters in Tshwane, the Minister said the Department of Mineral Resources (DMR) is aware of the challenges related to the charter that was released by his predecessor Mosebenzi Zwane in June 2017.

Today’s briefing follows on the Minister’s engagements on the Mining Charter with social partners at the weekend.

The charter is government’s instrument designed to achieve mutually symbiotic sustainable growth and broad based and meaningful transformation of the mining and minerals industry. Among its objectives is the deracialising of ownership of the mining and minerals industry by redressing the imbalances of the past.

President Cyril Ramaphosa had said that the charter will be reviewed every five years.

“…That is one of the issues that is on the table. Ideally you should be evaluating the progress made in the charter every year, then review it after 10 years,” Minister Mantashe said, stressing that there must be a monitoring and evaluation process.

Task teams and timelines 

The Minister announced that two task teams will be established, with one team focusing on transformation and the Mining Charter, while the other will engage on issues of growth and competitiveness.

The teams will report back in three weeks. This is addition to the DMR’s commitment to engage in an open and transparent way so as to re-establish trust among the social partners.

Minister Mantashe said he is hopeful that the final charter will be finalised and gazetted in the first half of this year.

Appointed to the portfolio following President Ramaphosa’s Cabinet reshuffle three weeks ago, Minister Mantashe described the weekend talks with organised business, labour and members of the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Mineral Resources as “robust and open”.

Engagement with role players 

Minister Mantashe said there was a lack of consultation between the Ministry and partners in the past, leading to a “trust deficit”.

In February, the Chamber of Mines -- which is the mining industry employer’s organisation -- announced that it had postponed its court application with regards to the charter following discussions with the Presidency.

Minister Mantashe said the department is committed to engaging in an open and transparent way so as to re-establish trust among social partners.

They also agreed to revive a forum akin to the Mining Industry Growth Development and Employment Task Team (MIGDETT). MIGDETT was created when the industry was confronted with massive challenges on the back of the 2008 global financial crisis. The revived structure will enable stakeholders to meet regularly and proactively deal with issues confronting the sector.

The department is also developing a planned programme for consultation with communities on the Charter.

Minister Mantashe stressed that it is important to ensure that there is policy certainty and that there is finality to the charter and the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Bill (MPRDB). The bill is currently before Parliament.

Health and safety 

The Minister noted that there has been an increase in fatalities in the sector in recent times.

“We are paying attention to matters of health and safety in the mining industry. Last year the sector recorded an increase in fatalities, for the first time since 2007.”

In 2017, a total of 88 fatalities were recorded, compared to 73 in 2016. Since the beginning of 2018, there have already been 15 fatalities. Urgent intervention is necessary, Minister Mantashe said.

Challenges at Tegeta Group 

Meanwhile, the department -- as the regulator of the industry -- is involved in resolving challenges faced by Tegeta’s four mining operations - Koornfontein, Shiva, Brakfontein and Optimum.

“We have met with the business rescue practitioners, mine management and workers at Optimum Mine. The business rescue practitioners have indicated that these are still good assets, which can be viably mined by another operator,” said Minister Mantashe.

The department has also appeared before Parliament’s Parliamentary Portfolio Committee to provide it with the progress report on this matter.

“Our aim is to find solutions that will keep the operations open and protect jobs. We want to see a thriving industry that creates jobs and ascertain investment. Ultimately, the mining industry – as a key component of our economy - must contribute to economic growth, while meeting its commitment to the social and labour plans,” the Minister said. - SAnews.gov.za

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