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Parliament frets over impasse between Zwane and Chamber of Mines

Oct 13 2017 12:59
Liesl Peyper

Cape Town – Parliament’s mining oversight committee is concerned about the breakdown in the relationship between the Department of Mineral Resources (DMR) and the Chamber of Mines.

The portfolio committee on mineral resources said in its Budgetary Review and Recommendations Report of the DMR that there are “almost unprecedented appeals to the courts by mining companies” aggrieved by Section 54 stoppages.

The DMR has increasingly started to clamp down on mining operations it deems unsafe, which its safety inspectors are authorised to halt through Section 54 stoppages.

The mining industry, however has complained that DMR officials are issuing these stoppages without considering that only certain sections of a mine are unsafe. 

AngloGold Ashanti in 2016 won a court case in the Labour Court against the DMR for reckless issuing of Section 54 notices. 

Insults over Mining Charter are worrying 

In its report, the committee also expressed concern over the “insults in the media – from both sides” following the gazetting of the revised Mining Charter in June this year.

The Chamber of Mines claims Mineral Resources Minister Mosebenzi Zwane passed the Mining Charter unilaterally and did not engage with it on any issues.

Zwane, on the other hand, maintains that the outcomes of Mining Charter 3 were the culmination of extensive consultation with “60 stakeholders” inside and outside government.

At a media briefing ahead of his budget speech in May this year – some weeks before the release of the revised charter - Zwane claimed that 90% of the content in the charter was based on “common ground”. He was also confident that the concerns of the big mining companies had been sufficiently addressed.

The chamber has, however, refuted Zwane’s assertions. Chamber of Mines CEO Roger Baxter recently said at a media conference that the chamber had tried to engage with Zwane in the past, without success. This has led to its decision to seek legal remedies.

“We do not want to engage with a stakeholder who has negotiated in bad faith,” Baxter said at the time.

Meanwhile, senior ANC officials have called on Zwane to negotiate with the chamber on thorny issues.

ANC treasury general Zweli Mkhize said the ruling party has engaged with the chamber on issues raised.

“We actually appealed to the ministry to sit down [with the chamber] on the Mining Charter to negotiate issues. These issues are now in court,” he said earlier.

Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa has also on occasion pleaded for dialogue and collaboration between the chamber and the DMR so that a compromise can be reached.

The implementation of the charter has been suspended pending a court case.

Other concerns

Parliament’s mining committee in its Budgetary Review lauded the DMR for achieving a clean audit in the 2016/17 financial year and achieving management performance targets, but said the “perpetual delays” in implementing initiatives to address problems plaguing the mining sector are worrisome.

The delay in promulgating the long-awaited Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act (MPRDA) is particularly concerning, Parliament noted.

“No mining legislation has been successfully passed into law since 2008,” the report said.

Fin24 earlier reported that the MPRDA, which is the overarching legislation that regulates all other legislation and regulations relating to the mining industry, has been in limbo since President Jacob Zuma sent it back to Parliament in January 2015.

The draft legislation is currently before the National Council of Provinces which is considering amendments proposed by a number of stakeholders, including the DMR.

Zwane earlier said he was confident that amendments to the MPRDA are in line with the Constitution, and that the act will be passed by Parliament by the end of 2017. 

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