Let us all share in SA's wealth

File picture of miners moving in a mining tunnel.
File picture of miners moving in a mining tunnel.

Judging from the reaction so far, there is general satisfaction among key stakeholders about the draft Mining Charter published by Mineral Resources Minister Gwede Mantashe last week.

There seems to be consensus that the document goes a long way in bringing about certainty and stability in a sector that was thrown into havoc largely due to the controversial Gupta family's control over former president Jacob Zuma and his then minister Mosebenzi Zwane.

Although it is a sector in decline, mining remains important to South Africa's economic prosperity. It contributes about 7.9% to gross domestic product and still employs over 460000 people.

The country is blessed with 53 different minerals, making it one of the most important exporters of precious metals in the world.

It is therefore crucial that the policies adopted will keep South Africa competitive while also ensuring the sector is accessible to the previously disadvantaged.

We are encouraged by the fact that, after months of resistance, mainstream mining companies have finally accepted as a principle that 30% of all mining assets should be reserved for economic empowerment. The debate over whether government's acceptance of the "once empowered always empowered" principle favoured by mining firms would not hinder transformation is set to be with us for years. However, we should accept the court ruling.

The one issue that seems to make business unhappy is the proposal in the charter that a 10% "free-carry stake" be split equally and given to employees and mining communities.

Mine owners are opposed to this proposal and argue that it will make South Africa not attractive to prospective foreign investment into the sector.

While there may be some merit to the industry's argument, we believe that mining companies should then suggest alternative methods in which mineworkers and communities can meaningfully benefit from the sector. Shutting them out, like was the case for most of the past 100 years of mining, can no longer be an option.

To be sustainable long term, the mining industry should be prepared to share the wealth with workers and communities whose land they mine.

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