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The agreement struck between Mineral Resources Minister Mosebenzi Zwane, and the Chamber of Mines to halt the implementation of the Mining Charter III has been welcomed by legal experts as a sign that both parties would return to the negotiating table. However, the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) says it had taken exception to the deal.

The chamber said on Friday that Zwane had given a written undertaking that he together with the Department of Mineral Resources (DMR), would pull the brakes on implementing the charter, pending the outcome of a court judgment in its application for an urgent interdict.

Africa Energy and Resources Leader at professional services firm Deloitte, Andrew Levy, said on Friday the postponement of the charter was positive.

“I think it is a positive sign. Hopefully it will offer an opportunity for some real engagement to get to a workable solution,” Levy said.

“Of course, uncertainty remains. We do not know what the outcome of the court challenge will be, and how the parties will respond to the outcome,” he added.

Peter Leon, partner at Herbert Smith Freehills, said it was not altogether surprising as it gave the DMR more time to file its answering affidavit while at the same time protecting the chamber’s members’ interests.

“More positively it has the effect of operating as an interim interdict until the matter is heard in September, which means that the DMR cannot put the charter into effect in the meanwhile,” Leon said.

Mining companies listed on the JSE lost R51billion in value when the charter was gazetted on June 15, as investors voted with their feet on their concerns about some of the the targets in the charter.

The chamber, which represents 90percent of the mining industry by value, asked the North Gauteng High Court last month to grant an urgent court interdict to have the charter reviewed and set aside.

It blamed Zwane for lack of consultation and said that the charter was flawed with unrealistic targets which threatened the sector’s viability.

One of the sticking points for the chamber was that the charter required mining companies had 12 months in which to increase black ownership in mines to the new 30percent target from the current 26percent level.

However, Zwane described the charter as a revolutionary tool through which to transform the industry and restore certainty as he gazetted it last month.

In a statement released on Saturday, Zwane said he had noted the statements attributed to the Chamber of Mines in the media regarding the charter, and would provide his considered view on the matter, at the appropriate time.

The NUM, the biggest union in the industry, said it planned to oppose the agreement.

“The NUM 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,” spokesperson Livhuwani Mammburu said on Friday.

“The NUM would like to appeal to the DMR to stop tiptoeing around transformation and its constitutional obligations of redressing the imbalances of past. The first such act should be to deal decisively with all mining companies that failed to comply with the previous Mining Charter 2014 targets, thus suspending and withdrawing all those affected mining rights,” he said.

The postponement came a day after Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba on Thursday called on the DMR and the chamber to return to the negotiating table to resolve the impasse over the charter.