Minister of Mineral Resources Gwede Mantashe has slammed allegations that he and his department met privately with an Australian mining company looking to establish contentious mining operations at Xolobeni in the Eastern Cape.
He was speaking during a briefing of reporters on the latest version of the Mining Charter, which was gazetted and released on Thursday. He said the document was a product of consensus between miners, labour, government and mining communities.
Transworld's Australian subsidiary Minerals Commodities is expected to lead mining investments in the form of a titanium mine in Xolobeni.
Critics, including the South African Communist Party in the Eastern Cape, have raised concerns that the department seeks to railroad the mining operations in spite of environmental impact, and allegations that mining companies are bribing chiefs in the area to get approval for the investment.
The area is the site of the Red Dunes, a stone age historical site that is also a tourist attraction. The site is said to have been in place for hundreds of thousands of years. However, critics fear that mining investment would irreversibly damage the ecosystem which allows the dunes to thrive.
Mantashe dismissed any suggestions that he privately met with any Australian mining company during a recent trip to that country.
"There is a story that I went to Australia with a mining company. It was actually an Indaba called Africa Down Under where we talked to everyone and tried to mobilise investment," said Mantashe.
However, Mantashe advised the SACP's second provincial secretary in the Eastern Cape, Lazola Ndamase, against using his organisation to criticise perceived environmental impact of Xolobeni mining operations for his own personal reasons.
"We have accepted the Xolobeni community's right to say 'no'. But they must respect the right of other parties to say 'yes'. If it comes to a push we will test the community's understanding in this regard," Mantashe said.
He said it was not his place to verify allegations that mining companies were bribing chiefs in the area with 4x4 vehicles, but said these would not distract the department from bringing about the "much-needed" investment from the mining sector.