Johannesburg - Long-running investor
concerns about whether South Africa might nationalise its mines
will be laid to rest at a ruling party conference later this
month, Mines Minister Susan Shabangu said on Tuesday.
Over two years of support for nationalisation from radical
elements in the ruling African National Congress unnerved
investors and has been seen as a key reason why the sector has
not attracted the foreign capital it should.
But an ANC study released in February said nationalisation
would be an "unmitigated disaster". Instead, it urged higher
taxes and royalties which the sector could find hard to absorb
as it struggles with soaring labour and power costs.
"There has been much speculation as to what the ultimate
result of the discussions of the ANC will be on the issue of
nationalisation," Shabangu said in a speech
at a Johannesburg business school.
"This will be laid to rest in two weeks' time," she said,
referring to the ANC's policy conference starting on June 26.
Shabangu has already signalled her ironclad opposition to
nationalising mines in the world's largest platinum producer as
has President Jacob Zuma, while supporters of nationalisation
have been weakened.
The face of the nationalisation drive, former ANC Youth
League leader Julius Malema, has been suspended from the ruling
party for bringing it into disrepute, killing any influence the
young radical may have had over policy.
Shabangu also said her department commissioned a report on
the state of the platinum sector three months ago and that the
completed study is now on her desk.
This comes as the sector grapples with depressed prices and
escalating costs which have pushed marginal operations into the
red, as well as violent labour strife and a government safety
drive which hit production hard in 2011 and earlier this year.
Aquarius Platinum this week became the first major
platinum producer to scale back activities because of low prices
and will likely not be the last.
Shabangu said the platinum sector is so important to the
South African economy, Africa's biggest, that it cannot be
allowed to decline.
"We must look at ways to ensure production grows, not
declines," she said.