20180205. South African Mineral Resources Minister Mosebenzi Zwane opens the 2018 Mining Indaba. Picture: Siphelele Dludla/ANA
JOHANNESBURG - Mining bosses yesterday criticised Mineral Resources Minister Mosebenzi Zwane for failing to chart a new path for the industry in the new year.

The executives described Zwane’s opening speech at the 24th annual Investing In African Mining Indaba in Cape Town as uninspiring.

Neal Froneman, chief executive of gold and platinum producer Sibanye Stillwater, said Zwane failed to give the industry new hope and direction.

“I think when you look at what he said, he said nothing,” Froneman said. “That is different to what he said in the past, it is almost like he was told to not upset the industry. He gave no direction, and he was not controversial. I think that is a good sign, he did not come with a normal radical position. The fact he said nothing was better than saying negative things, that scares investors.”

Earlier, Zwane told delegates that the prices for most metals such as zinc, copper and iron ore increased year-on-year in 2017.

Zwane steered clear of the controversial third version of the Mining Charter, charging instead that the global recovery of precious metals was expected to continue in the short- to medium-term, supporting commodity prices and demand.

Blossoming

“We can therefore confidently assert that the spring in mining is indeed blossoming into a summer,” he said. Zwane also said that his department continued to prioritise the promotion of good working relations with right-holders.

“Since our arrival in Cape Town a few days ago we have met with some of the global mining firms operating in our country, including Rio Tinto - on the company’s plans to expand its operations and extend its life of mines, with a potential investment to the tune of $450million. The company has also demonstrated its willingness to align with government policies, by exceeding the targets we have set for empowerment and transformation,” said Zwane.

Peter Leon, partner and co-chairperson of Herbert Smith Freehills’ Africa practice, said Zwane again failed to address the ongoing regulatory uncertainty bedevilling the South African mining industry.

“The minister (Zwane) rather surprisingly claimed the government had created an enabling environment for mining.

"Not only did the minister not expand on this, but said nothing about the contested Mining Charter - now the subject of a judicial review later this month by the Chamber of Mines - or the Mineral and Petroleum Resource Development Act Bill which has lingered in Parliament for five years."

- BUSINESS REPORT