Community essential for new charter

Miners moving in a mining tunnel.
Miners moving in a mining tunnel.
Image: GALLO IMAGES

The country is clearly in urgent need of an injection of new investments, especially in relatively labour-intensive industries such as mining.

Hopes were dashed yesterday that a deal would soon be struck between the government and the mineral resources sector over a new mining charter.

This follows government's decision to appeal a recent court ruling that stated that a company that once had black investors should be considered a black empowered company even when those black investors have sold their stake in the company.

The decision to challenge the ruling on the "once empowered- always empowered" principle is likely to further delay the conclusion of talks over the long-awaited new mining charter seen as key to bringing about policy certainty in the industry that is regarded as the backbone of the South African economy.

President Cyril Ramaphosa recently speculated that the finalisation of the charter could increase investment by 25% in the local extractive industries.

The country is clearly in urgent need of an injection of new investments, especially in relatively labour-intensive industries such as mining.

But this urgent need should not blind us to the equally important need to do things the right way.

The transformation of the country's economy in general, and the mining sector in particular, is as important as attracting new investments.

It is for this reason that the "once empowered-always empowered" issue should not be left hanging.

One major benefit of the delay, however, could give government, the mining sector and the trade union movement an opportunity to reconsider their decision to exclude mining communities from the talks.

No sustainable agreement can be reached without the meaningful involvement of communities that are affected by the activities of mining companies.

Yet, so far, the government's attitude seems to be that it needs to engage only industry players.

Mining has always been a contested terrain in South Africa and that's why it is important that discussions about its future are as inclusive as possible.

If government and its partners are to find a lasting solution to the volatile mining industry, they had better use the opportunity availed by the delay to start talking to mining communities.

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