South Africa mining lobby rejects talks with ministry over charter

South Africa's mining lobby has rejected talks with the mining ministry over changes to the industry's charter, which include raising targets for black ownership, saying the matter will have to be settled in court.

"We are of the view that engaging with the minister directly is not going to achieve a set of results for the industry that is workable," Roger Baxter, chief executive of the Chamber of Mines, told Reuters on the sidelines of a mining conference.

"We only have confidence that the courts will deliver a certain outcome."

The chamber and the ministry are locked in a number of legal disputes over the mining charter, which aims to increase black ownership and participation in the industry as part of a government drive to overcome apartheid's legacies.

One legal challenge by the chamber that will be heard in November is over the ministry's view that mining companies must always maintain a certain level of black ownership and must top it up if black shareholders sell their stakes.

The other, to be heard in December, is related to revisions to the charter that increase the black ownership level to 30 percent from 26 percent and impose other regulations on an industry struggling with depressed or volatile prices, soaring costs and social and labour unrest.

The industry complains it was not consulted on the changes when it says talks should have taken place.

Baxter said 65 percent of platinum operations in South Africa, the world's largest producer of the precious metal, were loss-making at current prices, raising the spectre of widespread lay-offs and underscoring the scale of the challenges faced by the industry. (Reporting by Ed Stoddard; Editing by James Macharia and Mark Potter)