South Africa’s mines minister withdraws plan to suspend rights

South Africa's mineral resources department has withdrawn its plan to impose a moratorium suspending the issuance of new mining and prospecting rights, which had drawn a court challenge by an industry group.

The moratorium attracted criticism from the industry on fears it could hamper growth and investment in South Africa's mining sector, already beset by policy uncertainty, depressed prices, soaring costs and often violent labour strife.

Mineral Resources Minister Mosebenzi Zwane said in July he intended to suspend the granting of applications for prospecting and mining rights. South Africa's Chamber of Mines lodged a court application to prevent the moratorium.

The department said in a statement seen by Reuters on Friday that based on various submissions from industry players on its proposed move it would not go ahead with the moratorium.

The Chamber of Mines, which represents mining companies such as Anglo American and Sibanye Gold, said in a statement an agreement had been struck with the mining department preventing the moratorium.

The agreement was approved and made a binding court order by the High Court, the chamber said.

"While the court order is satisfactory, it does not take away the fact that significant damage has been done to the confidence of the industry as a result of the Minister’s reckless actions," it said.

The chamber has also filed a court challenge against a new mining charter that proposes to increase the required level of ownership of mining firms by black people.

(Reporting by Tanisha Heiberg; Editing by James Macharia)