September 14, 2017 / 12:44 PM / 12 days ago

S.Africa mining minister will not say contested charter is law: Chamber of Mines

Mosebenzi Zwane, South Africa's Minister of Mineral Resources, speaks at a media briefing in Cape Town, South Africa, February 8, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Hutchings/File Photo

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - South Africa’s Chamber of Mines said on Thursday that mines minister Mosebenzi Zwane had pledged in writing to a court that he would not publicly say changes to an industry charter were “law” until a judicial challenge has been completed.

Zwane released the revised mining charter in June, giving mining companies, many of which are pressured by rising costs and volatile or depressed prices, 12 months to meet a new 30 percent minimum for black ownership, up from 26 percent.

The government in July suspended implementation of the new mining law, which includes raising the level of shares blacks should own in mining firms, pending a court ruling. The industry has said it was not consulted on many of the new rules.

But Zwane irked the industry last week at a mining conference in Perth, Australia, when he said that the revised charter was law and companies had 12 months to comply with it.

“His comments caused further damage to investor confidence in an industry already struggling to secure investment,” the chamber said in a statement.

“The Minister’s latest written undertaking now includes a commitment to provide clarity about his undertaking to suspend implementation whenever he discusses the Charter in the public domain,” it said. The chamber provided a copy of his written undertaking to the Pretoria High Court.

The matter will be heard before a full bench of judges on December 13 and 14. The ministry said in a separate statement it looked forward to the hearings “when the matter will finally be heard by the High Court.”

“The ministry is of the view that this matter should be resolved speedily as part of government’s efforts to address growing impatience and anger experienced by sections of our country’s population as a result of continued marginalisation in key economic sectors of our economy,” it said.

The Mining Charter was first introduced in 2002 to increase black ownership of the mining industry, which accounts for about 7 percent of South Africa’s economic output.

Editing by Pritha Sarkar

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