File image: IOL.
JOHANNESBURG - Former Harmony chief executive Bernard Swanepoel has called for junior mining companies to be included when the Mining Charter is redrafted.

The mining veteran said the next version of the charter needed to extend beyond the big mining houses and involve as many stakeholders as possible.

“I think the next charter needs to not only give the 22 members of the Chamber of Mines what they want in terms of certainty, but it also needs to open up mining for the aspiring miners, the explorers and smaller guys that cannot play by these rules that the government and the big guys at the Chamber of Mines can agree to,” Swanepoel said.

The chamber  represents  90% of the mining industry’s turnover, approached the high court to have the charter reviewed and set aside.

The chamber in fact has 71 members, many of which are the smaller miners to which Swanepoel refers  to. The chamber further said that three of those members are associations which together represent more than 100 further small producers.

"Smaller and emerging miners  are specifically catered for in Chamber activities including  development of policy positions in various ways, and have access to the Chamber’s committees,  resources and the highest decision-making bodies within the organisation."

The litigation was postponed following the intervention of President Cyril Ramaphosa, who wants to give consultations a chance.

“The charter should be all-inclusive. As important as the chamber is, it by no means speaks on behalf of all the industry,” said Swanepoel, who also chairs the Small Business Institute.

“I think, in the redrafting of the next charter, let us take three months longer, but let us have all the stakeholders - business, labour, communities, environmental groups.

“These companies were all once small. Large companies can’t continue to make rules that keep them large.”

The call for more inclusion comes as new Mineral Resources Minister Gwede Mantashe said he hoped to have the charter finalised in three months.

Swanepoel berated former mineral resources minister Mosebenzi Zwane for dragging the industry into the doldrums following the announcement of the charter.

“The lack of confidence and the fact that companies would rather pay out dividends to overseas investors than invest in the expansion of South African mines is a result of the charter. It gets clear if you look at the debacle over Optimum Coal, the Gupta company. It has damaged the image of South Africa as a destination.”

In October, Swanepoel, Sipho Nkosi and Clinton Halsey joined a consortium funded by the newly established Last Mile Fund created by African Rainbow Capital to purchase the Mooiplaats mine in Ermelo for R179.9million.

Swanepoel said the mine started on schedule in early January, and two out of the five sections of the mine were up and running.

He said the industry needed the optimism that the country would function, and the certainty that the rules were not only fair but would be the same for 20 years.

“Nobody is more dependent on the government and state utilities than the mining industry. You cannot mine without Eskom, access to water, good roads and ports. In our country, those utilities are all government-owned.

“The mining industry and the government are like Siamese twins. We can kick each other in the face, but we are actually tied together and can either sink, swim or drown together,” said Swanepoel.

- BUSINESS REPORT