FILE PHOTO: South Africa's Mineral Resources Minister Mosebenzi Zwane

JOHANNESBURG - Mineral Resources Minister Mosebenzi Zwane, who faced a barrage of criticism after gazetting the Mining Charter III in June, on Friday said there had been calls to raise the mandatory black ownership of mining assets to 50% - from the new 30% target.

Zwane has been highly criticised for gazetting a charter that would deter investment in the ailing industry buckling under pressure of rising costs, commodity price volatility and 7000 job losses over the past five years.

Zwane told business leaders at the Black Business Council that he had received backing from most quarters of society.

“We welcome the support we have received from most quarters of society, who have said to us "you are on the right track in terms of sustainably transforming this critical sector of the economy", in fact, some have said to us that 30% is not radical enough on the ownership element, why not 50% or higher,” he said.

“We are clear that we do not want a continuation of what has occurred in the past, where deals that were structured only left the black shareholders in debt, with no real benefit being realised."

Also read: Zwane holds firm on Mining Charter

Zwane also reiterated his criticism of the Chamber of Mines’ move to approach the courts in a bid to have the charter reviewed and set aside.

“Only one stakeholder has voiced their opposition to the transformation of the mining industry,” he said.

Zwane said the charter was being implemented to ensure that the sustainable growth, development and transformation of the sector, remains a significant contributor to the economy through gross domestic product and employment creation, among others.

“Our policies are not static. They are adapted from time to time to take into account various issues,” he said.

Zwane charged that for more than 100 years the mining industry had been the bedrock of the economy.

A chamber spokesperson said on Friday that Zwane’s comments would be the subject of the legal actions brought by the Chamber of Mines to get an urgent interdict against the charter's implementation and for it then to be reviewed.

The chamber not only disagrees with a number of the assertions and interpretations made by the minister, but was also concerned that these comments are deliberately misleading, particularly regarding the Department of Mineral Resources’s engagement with stakeholders in developing the document.

The spokesperson said that the chamber disagreed with Zwane’s suggestion that there had been no meaningful economic participation of black people into the mainstream economy.

He “appears” unaware of the numerous black-owned mining companies co-operating in South Africa and the tens of thousands of black managers and executives in the workforce.

“The minister does not acknowledge any ‘ownership’ of the two previous charters, nor that all mining companies operating in SA have mining licences approved by the Department of Mineral Resources on the basis of these charters," the spokesperson added.