JOHANNESBURG - South Africa’s mining industry on Thursday expressed hope that the election of new leadership for the ruling African National Congress (ANC) signals a new dawn for collaboration between the government and the sector to boost the economy.
The ANC elected the country’s deputy president and leader of government business Cyril Ramaphosa as its new head in December, igniting confidence that the ruling party will tilt back towards a more investor-friendly trajectory.
South Africa’s chamber of mines says uncertainty over policy and the regulatory environment intensified after mines minister Mosebenzi Zwane unveiled a Mining Charter last year which the sector slammed as impractical and poorly drafted.
Proposed amendments to the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act have also stalled over differences between the government and the industry on some sections.
Ramaphosa's election has given cause for "cautious optimism" of a viable way forward, the chamber’s chief executive Roger Baxter said.
"We hope to see a renewed focus by the ruling party on responsible and ethical leadership in the national interest across all sectors of the economy and at all levels of society. The future of South Africa and its people depend on it," Baxter told the African News Agency ahead of the annual “Mining Indaba” conference next week.
"The Chamber is looking forward to a situation where it will be possible again to work cooperatively with government to get the economy and the mining sector back on track."
Zwane is scheduled to address the industry at next week’s “indaba” in Cape Town.
Baxter said uncertainty over the current legislation and lack of a conducive environment in the mining sector had seen at least R145 billion of planned capital spending put on hold, hampering the already ailing economy.
Mining accounts for about 8 percent of South Africa’s gross domestic product, according to the national statistics agency.
The Mining Charter sets new black ownership targets for the industry, including that new mining rights holders have 30 percent black ownership shared among employees, communities and black entrepreneurs.
A court challenge by the chamber to the charter’s implementation in its current form will be held on February 19-21.
Baxter rejected critics’ charges that the chamber is opposing the charter in a bid to block transformation in the mining industry.
"The Chamber of Mines is fully supportive of and committed to meaningful transformation and growth in the mining industry,” he said.
"The Chamber is not against increasing the target [of ownership by black shareholders]. However, we are against this target being set without consultation or considering the implications. We believe that the continuing consequences of previous transactions must be taken into account."
Baxter said the requirement that mining companies should "top up" the percentage of black ownership every time such shareholders sell their shares was not sustainable.
Another area of tension between government and the industry has been that of safety, and has been escalated by the failure to recover the bodies of three mine workers that have been trapped underground since February 2016 at Australian-owned Lily Gold Mine in Barberton, Mpumalanga.