South Africa delays court decision on black ownership of mines

South Africa delays court decision on black ownership of mines

South African mines minister Ngoako Ramatlhodi. (Screenshot from SABC Digital News via YouTube)

South African mines minister Ngoako Ramatlhodi has failed to meet his auto-imposed April deadline to ask courts help him resolve a dispute over a black ownership target of 26% for mining companies.

The mining ministry was still fine-tuning details the request details, a spokesman for Ramatlhodi told Bloomberg on Tuesday. He added that while the matter remained “urgent,” they didn’t want to “waste the court’s time by filing papers which are not well-cooked.”

The mines minister said in March he would request a court judgment to settle the issue of whether or not mining companies can claim they have met their required black-ownership quotas, as specified by the country’s 2004 Mining Charter.

The main point of contention is the fact that mining companies believe that once they have reached a 26% black ownership, it means they effectively complied with the regulations. However, some investors subsequently sold their stakes, diluting the companies’ black shareholding, which according to the government goes against the law.

The so-called empowerment rule was seen as a way to compensate black South Africans for discrimination suffered during the apartheid era.

Since early this year authorities have been auditing mining houses with an eye to charter compliance. According to official figures, about 20% of South Africa's mining companies, mostly small players, have yet to provide details about their compliance with the charter, due by the end of 2014