CAPE TOWN - The government yesterday shrugged off business concerns around policy and political uncertainties, charging that the country's mining industry was open for business, despite myriad problems, including Eskom's electricity crisis.
Mineral Resources and Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe said the government welcomed the interest shown in the industry during the Investing In Mining Indaba in Cape Town, which drew to a close yesterday.
Mantashe said that the country's foundation for economic growth was a solid mining and energy industrial complex, which would allow other sectors of the economy to thrive.
“South Africa remains an attractive destination for investment in mining,” Mantashe said, “and we will continue to work with the sector, stakeholders and social partners to ensure that it continues to make a positive contribution to the economy.”
He said that South Africa had created an enabling regulatory and policy environment for investment in mining to take place.
“Furthermore, the government is resolving the country's energy challenges, which have been a constraint for the mining sector. The gazetting and implementation of the Integrated Resource Plan is a critical step in our journey to ensuring the security of energy supply for the industry and the country at large,” he said.
Mantashe on Monday announced that the government planned to establish a new state-owned energy utility to "back-up" Eskom.
The indaba is the global mining premier event, which brings together industry captains to discuss policy, risks and opportunities in the industry. This year it attracted industry representatives from 40 African countries, including the Democratic Republic of Congo, Sierra Leone and Mali.
Prominent human rights lawyer Richard Spoor told the indaba that the government had failed to hold mining houses to account due to poorly developed policies.
Spoor, who led the litigation against the gold mining industry class action suit, said big mining corporations were only held accountable by investors and lenders, and not governments or civil society due to weak capacity.
“The financial markets discipline large corporations to behave in a responsible fashion, it is not the government nor civil society,” Spoor said during a discussion on mining and justice. “They (corporations) are doing this for the benefit of shareholders. It is ironic in a country like ours. The real weakness is that we have a weak government and a weak civil society.”
Spoor said that some of the guidelines in the recently published mining charter were problematic as they did not speak to international laws.
“You can see it in the mining charter, which, for example, proposes the establishment of trusts for the benefit of communities, workers, women and disabled people. They (proposals) are kind of sucked out of the air, out of nothing, not integrated with international laws and standards, completely apart with very little insights on how the trusts are going to work,” said Spoor.