Mineral Resources Minister Mosebenzi Zwane has frozen all mining applications in the country for the time being, raising the ire of the mining industry that has accused him of "upping the ante" in the dispute between Zwane and the industry over the new mining charter.
Business Day reported on Thursday that a new regulation was gazetted on Wednesday by Zwane, essentially putting a halt on all mining transactions, placing restrictions on the granting of new mining and permitting rights and the transfer of mineral rights between companies.
"The intended restriction shall not be applicable to applications received and accepted before the date of publication of this notice, subject to the condition that such application, if granted, shall not immediately upon granting subject the right holder to the requirements of the Mining Charter 2017," Zwane said.
Mining lawyers told Business Day that the minister was acting outside of his powers.
Nicola Jackson, a partner at Fasken Martineau, told Business Day: "The section relied on requires the minister to identify the land, specific mineral or class of minerals. It does not permit a blanket moratorium in respect of applications for the entire country and in respect of all minerals, effectively halting the entire mining industry."
Peter Leon, a partner at Herbert Smith Freehills said Zwane appeared to be trying to find a way around an agreement made last week, where Zwane and the Chamber of Mines had agreed to suspend the implementation of the new mining charter.
"Zwane is trying to achieve through the back door what he has been unable to achieve through the front; the problem with this is that the notice is hopelessly misconceived as a matter of law," he said.