Pretoria - The legal challenge to the Mining Charter was postponed indefinitely on Monday by the Gauteng High Court, Pretoria, for the relevant parties to negotiate a new Charter.
A full bench (three judges), headed by Judge President Dunstan Mlambo, ordered that Mineral Resources Minister Mosebenzi Zwane, had to regard the mining communities as interested parties in drawing-up a new Mining Charter.
The postponement comes in the wake of President Cyril Ramaphosa’s remarks made on Friday during the State of the Nation Address. He committed himself to intensify engagements with all stakeholders on the Mining Charter “to ensure that it is truly an effective instrument to sustainably transform the face of mining in South Africa.”
Read more: Mining Charter hearing postponed
Advocate Chris Loxton, appearing on behalf of the Chamber of Mines, who turned to court to have the 2017 Mining Charter set aside, said it has been in discussion with the Presidency over the weekend to resolve the impasse over the charter. He said there were negotiations to develop a new Mining Charter that all stakeholders can support.
Loxton said the application thus had to be postponed so that all stakeholders could “reflect on this new chapter and start a new page.”
He said as the 2017 Mining Charter “will never see the light of day” it would not serve any purpose to at this stage go-ahead with the review application.
Loxton said the minister also agreed that there should be consultative negotiations. It was argued on behalf of the minister that that while he did not agree that the various stakeholders were not properly consulted before the 2017 Charter was drafted, he agreed that it was in the national interest to engage in further consultations.
The court was told that the eight mining communities - also cited as applicants in this matter - which were directly or indirectly affected by mining activities in the country - were regarded by the minister as stakeholders in the drafting of a new Charter.
Counsel representing the various representatives of the communities all asked the court to include in its order that government had to recognize them in further negotiations. The said they have been sidestepped all along and they feared that it will happen again once a new Charter was drafted.
The said the minister only recognised them as stakeholders in word and not in deed.
Advocate Geoff Budlender SC, appearing for the communities represented by Lawyers for Human Rights, said the minister point blank refused to give an undertaking that he will consult with the communities.
“His (the minister’s) stance is ‘yes, you are a stakeholder, but I don’t need to consult with you.’”
The communities felt that they had been sidelined all the way and said they were not even consulted by government and the Chamber of Mines when it agreed over the weekend that the matter had to be postponed.
This prompted Judge Mlambo to remark that he also could not understand why they were excluded during these talks. Judge Jody Kollapen in turn remarked that that the interests of these communities weighed as heavy as that of the other parties.
The mining communities were meanwhile happy with the fact that a new Mining Charter was on the cards and expressed their hope that they would be consulted in every step.