Mineral Resources Minister Gwede Mantashe. PHOTO: Siphelele Dludla/African News Agency (ANA)

PRETORIA - Mineral resources minister Gwede Mantashe on Thursday dismissed allegations that his department was trying to bulldoze the mining development in Xolobeni after he visited the village in Mbizana, Eastern Cape, to listen to concerns around proposed mining in the Wild Coast area. 

This comes after an altercation ensued over the weekend between Mantashe and members of the Amadiba Crisis Committee, which opposes the mining of titanium in their area by Transworld Energy and Mineral Resources, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Australian corporation Mineral Commodities.

Mantashe said that out of 10 community organisations that participated in the meeting - including the Xolobeni Development Trust, Amadiba Development Forum, the Eastern Cape Contractors Forum, Bizana Chamber of Commerce - only Amadiba Crisis Committee was opposed to the mining exploration in the area.

He said that government could not just ignore such an overwhelming majority of support for development in the area. 

"Ten organisations made presentations. Of these, nine were for the development of both mining and tourism, and one, Amadiba Crisis Committee, made a presentation against mining development in the area. Ward 25 in Bizana, of which Xolobeni is part, is the poorest in the area with high levels of illiteracy and dependence on social grants," Mantashe said. 

"The community wants to use tourism and mining to develop itself further. It's not tourism versus mining. It's tourism and mining. It is important that consultation is allowed to proceed peacefully, so a final determination can be made on this matter, which is long-standing. We must allow mining alongside other developmental issues so that

Mantashe also said that he has established a team that will from Monday go back to calm tensions that have emerged over current and future coal and heavy-mineral mining plans‚ including a high court case in which community members are demanding the closure of the Somkhele coal mine on the border of the Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Game Reserve in KwaZulu-Natal. 

"We have established a team which will go back to kwaSomkhele early next week to deal in detail with issues raised by communities. Following the visit, the team will make recommendations with a view to finding sustainable solutions to the challenges there," Mantashe said.

Mantashe was speaking during a media briefing where he presented a revamped Mining Charter with a raft of legislative changes including prescriptions for black ownership, aimed at improving the South African industry to better the lives of workers, junior miners, small suppliers and mining communities. 

Under this latest version of mining regulations being gazetted on Thursday, Mantashe said existing mining right holders who achieved a minimum of 26 percent black ownership in their ventures were recognised as compliant for the duration of the right, but not the life of mine. 

"The right holder will be expected to increase their minimum BBBEE (broad-based black economic empowerment) shareholding to 30 percent within five years," Mantashe said. 

"A new mining right granted after the coming into effect of the Mining Charter 2018 must have a minimum of 30 percent applicable for the duration of the mining right."

Mantashe said the charter was not perfect and would not make all stakeholders happy, but was a consensus that everyone could live with after intensive engagements with mining companies, financial institutions, the legal fraternity, investors, mining communities and the cabinet.

He also confirmed that he had submitted a formal request to the speaker of Parliament to withdraw the controversial Minerals and Petroleum Resources Development Amendment Bill, meaning the current act remains applicable while a separate regime for oil and gas is being developed. 

- African News Agency (ANA)