19/02/2018 11:16 SAST | Updated 19/02/2018 11:16 SAST

New Mining Charter Plans Must Include Community Stakeholders

Government and the Chamber of Mines agree to postpone legal challenges to amended mining charter, but co-applicants from affected communities aren't happy.

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The Chamber of Mines says a process of developing a new mining charter is underway, following a meeting with President Cyril Ramaphosa at the weekend.

Ramaphosa has also convinced the Chamber to postpone its legal challenge against Mineral Resources Minister Mosebenzi Zwane's controversial amendments to the charter.

The Chamber said after the meeting with Ramaphosa, it agreed jointly with the department of mineral resources to postpone its court application in respect of the reviewed mining charter (RMC) – which was due to be heard in the High Court this week.

"We welcome [Ramaphosa's] intervention, and his commitment to engaging meaningfully with stakeholders in the industry – and others – on a new mining charter," said Chamber of Mines president Mxolisi Mgojo.

"Ultimately, a new mining charter must be developed and resolved through negotiation, with representation by a broad range of stakeholders – government, business, labour and communities. For the Chamber of Mines and the industry, legal recourse was always a last resort, intended to get the parties to the table – and the sooner we do that, the better for the industry and our country."

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Mineral Resources Minister Mosebenzi Zwane.

In a statement at the weekend, Ramaphosa's office announced that the postponement of legal action serves to allow parties the space to engage and find an amicable solution.

READ: Ramaphosa Opens Talks With Industry Over Mining Charter.

The battle between the Chamber and the department erupted when Zwane announced amendments to the mining charter last year. He wanted 30 percent of each South African mine to be black-owned, new prospecting rights to include 50 percent black control, and a minimum of 1 percent of mine turnover to be distributed to local communities.

Zwane also said the boards of mines must have 50 percent black representation, half of whom must also be women.

READ: Mines Must Be At Least 30 Percent Black Owned Says New Charter.

But a group of mining-affected community networks, who are co-applicants in the court challenge, say they were not consulted on the decision.

They said their legal representatives were notified shortly after a statement was released by the presidency.

Mining Affected Communities United in Action (MACUA), Women Affected by Mining United in Action (WAMUA) and the Mining and Environmental Justice Community Network of South Africa (MEJCON-SA), in a joint statement said this move mirrors the daily experience of mining-affected communities across South Africa, and is part of the same pattern of exclusion that led communities to approach the courts in the first place.

"There are eight applicants in this case, and only one of them has agreed to a postponement," says Wandisa Phama, attorney at the Centre for Applied Legal Studies. CALS is representing the mining community networks in court.

"It is up to the court to decide if the matter will be postponed, and not the Chamber of Mines, the minister or the presidency. They are treating our clients as if they are not a party to the case with a direct and substantial interest, as the court has already acknowledged."