By NBF News
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Whites still dominate South Africa's mining industry, and changes to include more blacks in the sector are slow despite a decade of affirmative action, Minerals Resources Minister, Mr. Susan Shabangu, said on Tuesday.

According to a Reuters report from Pretoria on Tuesday, Shabangu said only 8.9 per cent of mines were owned by blacks in 2009, well below a target of 15 per cent.

She stated this while releasing the country's long-awaited new mining charter.

She said, 'The racial ownership pattern of mining assets has remained largely unchanged.'

The government will maintain a target for 26 per cent black ownership of mines by 2014, according to the new charter.

The charter is an agreement overseeing the industry, which requires mining companies to sell a portion of their ownership to black people in a bid to reverse decades of exclusion under white apartheid rule.

The biggest change in the revised charter was that non-compliance now could lead to mining licences being revoked and other legal penalties.

The Director-General, Minerals Resources, Mr. Sandile Nogxina, told reporters that the mining charter formed an integral part of a mining licence.

'The most far reaching change is that non-compliance with the revised mining charter will amount to a breach of the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act, resulting in the suspension or cancellation of licences granted under the Act,' prominent law firm, Webber Wentzel, said in a statement.

The new charter is aimed at speeding up black ownership, skills development, employment equity, procurement, housing and mining beneficiation.

The slow progress in transforming the mining industry to include more black ownership is seen fuelling demands by the ruling African National Congress's youth wing for all mining companies to be nationalised.

Shabangu said top management and technical posts in the mining sector continued to be filled by whites, who earn more than their black counterparts.

'After 10 years of affirmative action being adopted as a policy, progress on diversification of management and core-skilled workers remains minimal,' she said.

Under the new charter, South African mining groups will procure 70 per cent of services and 50 per cent of consumer goods from black-led companies by 2014.

The new charter showed the mining industry had agreed to allow black investors to have voting rights and also to seek greater access from banks for black people to get funds for investments in mining.

Meanwhile, Coal of Africa has said its Rio Tinto farm swap agreement has been approved by the South African government, allowing the miner to lodge a New Order Mining Right application for its flagship Makhado coking coal project.

As part of the agreement, Coal of Africa has also gained three new potentially significant coking coal projects, which include Mount Stuart, Voorburg and Jutland.

'This farm swap agreement between Rio Tinto and Coal of Africa gives both companies the potential to develop significantly larger scale contiguous and economic coal projects,' said Coal of Africa's Chief Executive, Mr. John Wallington.

The miner expects to lodge the mining right application before the end of the calendar year.

The London-listed shares rose 6.4 per cent on Tuesday, compared with a 1.7 per cent gain in a British mining index.

However, the shares have fallen 10 per cent since mid -August when problems were reported at its Vele Colliery in South Africa.