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Communities reject Mantashe’s mining charter

Mineral Resources Minister Gwede Mantashe’s revised mining charter has already stirred up unhappiness within mining communities who claim the consultation process was a farce and who have threatened to pose another legal challenge against it.

The new charter compels companies applying for a new mining right to have a 30% black shareholding, of which 5% should be held by a community trust.

It also imposes a 5% levy for essential skills development and requires new mining right holders to invest 70% of their research and development budgets in South African-based entities.

The consultations with communities took place through a nationwide roadshow held over three months by Mantashe and his officials. But this was still not enough, national organiser of the Mining Affected Communities United in Action (Macua) Meshack Mbangula said.

“When [Mantashe] did the so-called public hearings, he would only give one day’s notice for a meeting in a remote area, so communities couldn’t reach it. Then they gave us the documents at 11am and expected us to understand it by 1pm on the same day.”

In February the North Gauteng high court ordered Mantashe to consult with Macua during the redrafting of the charter, as the organisation represents more than 400 groups in mining towns across the country.

Mbangula said Mantashe’s consultation was not sufficient and the group was now weighing up its options.

“We are obviously now seeking legal advice on whether we can challenge the charter’s consultation process. We believe he gazetted the charter because he was under the pressure of multinational companies. He just brought the charter to the communities to rubber-stamp,” he said.

On Thursday Mantashe said he intended to continue negotiations with mining communities. This came after officials received a hostile reception in the rural Eastern Cape village of Xolobeni, where anti-mining activists have refused the commencement of mining in the area.

“The community wants to use tourism and mining to develop itself further. It is important that consultation is allowed to proceed peacefully, so a final determination can be made on this matter, which is long-standing,” Mantashe said.

The minister faces an uphill battle in his quest to get communities on board with his charter, mining analyst Mamokgethi Molopyane said.

“Just because it’s been gazetted it doesn’t mean Mantashe’s work is over. He must continue engaging communities because we’ve already seen the unhappiness expressed by the Xolobeni community,” she said.

“If he wants to get it right, he’s going to have to go himself on a potential road show for the next two years and get as much support from the communities as he can.”

The charter was gazetted this week as Mantashe announced that he has decided to withdraw the Mineral Petroleum Resources Development Amendment (MPRDA) Bill.

The Bill has been under negotiation by mining companies, the government and unions for more than five years. The fact that talks stagnated has largely been blamed on the failure to reach an agreement on empowerment and petroleum, oil and gas regulation.

This week Mantashe said a different licensing regime would be established for petroleum, oil and gas while negotiations on the MPRDA Bill continue.

The Minerals Council South Africa said it would only comment after it has studied the gazetted charter, whereas the National Union of Mineworkers would discuss the document in its national executive committee meeting.

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Govan Whittles

Govan Whittles is a general news and political multimedia journalist at the Mail & Guardian. Born in King William's Town in the Eastern Cape, he cut his teeth as a radio journalist at Primedia Broadcasting. He produced two documentaries and one short film for the Walter Sisulu University, and enjoys writing about grassroots issues, national politics, identity, heritage and hip-hop culture.

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