Minister seeks advice on mining bill

Cape Town - Mineral Resources Minister Ngoako Ramatlhodi was seeking legal advice on testing some provisions of the mineral and petroleum resources development amendment bill, he said on Tuesday.

He told delegates at the 2015 Mining Indaba in Cape Town that he welcomed President Jacob Zuma's recent referral of the controversial bill back to parliament.

Zuma said last month that the bill did not pass constitutional muster. This included concern over SA’s international trade obligations, excessive discretion given to the mineral resources minister, and that public hearings were not held properly.

READ: R23bn of funds deployed into mining in 2014

In a media briefing, Ramatlhodi expanded that because the bill had been referred back to parliament and not the department, he needed advice on what stage the department could enter.

"It makes sense that we think of testing some of the things upfront so there is no waste of time."

Anyone who felt aggrieved in the process could approach the department.

"I cannot give you any better clarity on this policy issue because our policies are justiciable. I trust it is as clear as the blue skies of South Africa," he said to laughter.

"You would be hard pressed to find a similar legality anywhere in the world."

He assured that the country was a stable mining environment for investors.

"We wish to emphasise our intention to provide regulatory certainty for those who have invested here and those who plan to do so."

He said that thanks to a streamlined licensing process, he expected mining, environment and water use licences to be issued simultaneously within 300 days.

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Government was committing to sustainable energy and labour solutions, amid difficulties at Eskom and an unprecedented months-long strike by platinum miners.

"Government is supporting Eskom to attain a long-term sustainable financial solution."

He said the country was not new to nuclear power and was to reactivate "capabilities that we had abandoned at the dawn of our democratic dispensation".

Miners who broke the law during labour negotiations would be arrested, charged and sent to jail.

On August 16, 2012, 34 people, mostly striking mineworkers, were shot dead in a clash with police near Lonmin [JSE:LON] mine in Marikana, North West. More than 70 others were wounded.

In the preceding week, 10 people, including two policemen and two security guards, were killed.

Ramatlhodi said this strike was an exception to the rule and he did not see a repeat of it.

Should such a strike reoccur, however, political office would once again be brought into negotiations to end it.

In light of restructuring in the industry, the department was looking to take advantage of certain assets to establish "a new champion" broad-based enterprise, single or multi-commodity, that would focus on strong worker participation.

Ramatlhodi said he was in talks with mining businesses such as Anglo American [JSE:AGL] and BHP Billiton [JSE:BIL] in terms of section 11 of the Mining Act.

This section dealt with the transfer of prospecting or mining rights.

ALSO READ: Alternative Mining Indaba calls for inclusion of communities

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