Parliament wants review of mining charter

Members of South Africa’s Parliament are seeking amendments to strengthen the country’s mining charter, aimed at ensuring the industry is at least 26% black-owned by 2014, the Business Day newspaper reported on Monday.

The government has long held that companies are lagging in moves to give blacks a bigger share of the mining industry. The sector’s charter is part of a wider “empowerment” drive across Africa’s largest economy aimed at rectifying the disparities of white apartheid rule.

“There has been no transformation. It has all been cosmetic,” the paper quoted Fred Gona, the chairperson of Parliament’s mining committee and an MP for the ruling African National Congress, as saying.

The paper said the committee has proposed that unions, businesses, government and communities should meet and map out amendments needed to make the charter more effective.

Parliament conducted public hearings on the mining charter last week.

South Africa’s Chamber of Mines said on Wednesday black ownership among its members averaged 28%, already exceeding the targets — politically charged findings far removed from anything the government has said to date.

Business Day said this was wildly at odds with the findings of the South African Mineral Development Association, which found that black ownership of the Johannesburg bourse’s top 25 miners was only around 4.5% of their market capitalisation last year.

Minister of Mining Susan Shabangu is expected to soon give her assessment of industry progress in reaching the targets of the charter.

Shabangu recently told Reuters that she was confident the targets would be exceeded by 2014 but no one from government or the ruling ANC has suggested it is close yet.

Meeting the charter’s goals is seen as one way to blunt a push by radical elements in the ANC, led by its youth league, to nationalise the industry, a prospect that has unnerved investors but also focused attention on pressing issues such as poverty, unemployment, and racial imbalances in ownership. — Reuters

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