Mine workers walk past the pit head at Sibanye Gold’s Masimthembe shaft in Westonaria. Picture: Reuters

Johannesburg - The  National Union of Mineworkers said on Friday that it was "shocked" and "disappointed" by the temporary suspension of the controversial Mining Charter pending the outcome of the Chamber of Mine’s urgent interdict, saying that it would be exploring legal possibilities in a bid to challenge it. 

This comes after Mineral Resources Minister, Mosebenzi Zwane, on Friday gave a written undertaking that his department will not implement or apply the provisions of the 2017 Reviewed Mining Charter in any way, pending judgement in an urgent interdict brought by the Chamber of Mines.

Zwane has furthermore undertaken that, in the event of any breach of the his undertaking, the Chamber can set the urgent interdict application down for hearing on 48 hours’ notice to him.

"The  National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) has noted with shock the recently reported agreement between the Chamber of Mines and the Department of Mineral Resources in court papers filled in the High Court, which "delays" the implementation or enforceability of the recently gazetted Mining Charter till the September 2017 court date," the union said in a statement. 

"We are extremely disappointed with the Minister of Mineral Resources who seem to buckled under pressure in court and conceded in the suspension of the mining charter and thus delayed the meaningful inclusion of employees and communities in this exploitative industry. We expected no less from the Chamber of Mines, whom we feel their actions have attacked every essence of transformation in the mining industry."

The Reviewed Mining Charter has been vehemently rejected by the industry, with the Chamber saying that the Department of Mineral Resources (DMR) had not had meaningful consultations before the introduction of some of the items, and thus it would approach the courts to stop the department from implementing it. 

NUM was among a few who welcomed it though it said that government-set targets for black ownership of the country’s mineral wealth could have gone further.

The Reviewed Charter’s targets include new mining rights holders having 30 percent black ownership to be shared among employees, communities and black entrepreneurs. Mining rights holders who have complied with the previous target of 26 percent have to “top up” to 30 percent within 12 months.

NUM said the DMR should decisively deal with all mining companies that failed to comply with the previous Mining Charter 2014 targets, and thus should be suspending and withdrawing all those affected mining rights. 

"We will be consulting our legal unit to explore possibilities of challenging this court (order) "agreement" between the Chamber and DMR, as the transformation in the mining industry, affects all of us, especially employees and communities," the union said. 

"The NUM would like to appeal to the Department of Mineral Resources to stop tip toeing around transformation and its constitutional obligations of redressing the imbalances of past."