Cape Town – A declaratory high court order on the “once empowered always empowered” principle will set the tone for Mining Charter negotiations to be collaborative, according to trade union Solidarity.
The ruling, made on Wednesday afternoon, ensures that black economic empowerment ownership transactions in the mining sector will continue to be recognised, even if shares are sold or the BEE partner exits a partnership.
The matter was heard in November 2017 by a full bench of judges at the North Gauteng High Court which included Judge Peter Mabuza, Judge Tina Siwendu and Judge Frans Barrie.
The Chamber of Mines, which represents 90% of the industry, and Solidarity presented arguments before the court to dispute a top-up rule in the 2017 Mining Charter.
The rule stated that if BEE ownership levels dropped below 30%, mining companies would lose their empowerment status if they did not restore the ownership levels within 12 months.
Connie Prinsloo, Solidarity mining industry deputy general secretary, said the court ruling would serve as a pointer for charter negotiations.
“We trust that, given the ruling, further litigation would be prevented and parties will negotiate on a collaborative rather than an antagonistic footing,” said Prinsloo.
He added that the ruling creates certainty on the matter.
New Mineral Resources Minister Gwede Mantashe is working to finalise the charter in three months and has been engaging with stakeholders.
President Cyril Ramaphosa previously told Parliament that the new charter should benefit all South Africans.
The Chamber of Mines also welcomed the ruling, and indicated it is engaging with other stakeholders and the Department of Mineral Resources to develop the new charter.
* Sign up to Fin24's top news in your inbox: SUBSCRIBE TO FIN24 NEWSLETTER