Mining Charter court battle postponed until next year

Johannesburg - The showdown between the mining sector and Mining Minister Mosebenzi Zwane over the controversial Mining Charter will now only take place next year, after the charter's court review was postponed.

The hearing was moved to mid-February next year at the request of the Chamber of Mines, which voiced concerns that the two days set aside in December was not enough time to argue the case properly.

The chamber approached the court after Zwane gazetted the new Mining Charter in June this year, asking that it be set aside. The chamber believes the charter will have a far-reaching negative impact on an industry which is already struggling to keep afloat, if implemented in its current format.

Zwane suspended implementation of the charter until judgment has been handed down in the Chamber’s review application.

The matter was originally scheduled to be heard by a full bench of the High Court on December 13 and 14 2017.

The chamber said in a statement that the counsel for the six parties involved in the action met Judge Sulette Potterill on Friday to discuss the adequacy of the two days set aside for the hearing.

“The judge expressed concern that the two days may not be adequate,” the chamber said, adding that it was prepared to explore the possibility of adding a third day in December to the hearing.

“But the judge indicated that this was not an option because the judge president had indicated that he wanted to be part of the case and [he] was not available in December,” the statement said.

Potterill then decided to postpone the hearing of the chamber’s application for the review to February 19, 20 and 21 2018.

Zwane said the prolonged legal uncertainty caused by the postponement is indeed regrettable.  

“[This is] especially in as far as the implementation of our transformation objectives as government is concerned,” the minister said. “We will, however, abide by the granting of the postponement."

The Chamber of Mines claims Zwane passed the Mining Charter unilaterally and did not engage with it on any issues, while Zwane has argued that the charter was the culmination of extensive consultation with “60 stakeholders” inside and outside government.

Chief among the chamber’s concerns is a rule requiring mines to be 30% black-owned in perpetuity, while a 1% levy on revenue that must be paid to black investors before other shareholder dividends and increased local procurement targets have also raised the hackles of the mining industry.

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