Mineral Resources Minister, Gwede Mantashe, has missed a great opportunity. At industry stakeholder talks over the weekend, he indicated that the widely criticized Mining Charter 3 will be the basis of the negotiation of a new charter with industry.

There was hope that he would start discussions using Mining Charter 2 as a baseline. That would have sent a strong signal to investors that the ANC government was ready to get its mining house in order and investment into South African mines would start flowing again.

In taking the position that he has, Mantashe has shown that mining policy is just business as usual. Business as usual means the continuation of tightening restrictions on mining operations in pursuit of the government’s programme of racial transformation within the industry.

Unfortunately, the manner in which this programme has been implemented has been at a huge cost to business and one of the reasons that South Africa is seen as such an unfavourable place for mining investment. This has led to a shrinking industry which has lost more than 70 000 jobs in five years.

Mantashe went into the issue in the right way, pledging to have a new charter operational in three months. That would be an important step in tackling one of the uncertain areas of government policy. However, starting negotiations around the unrealistic, punitive, and in some cases, illegal provisions of Charter 3, will send exactly the wrong signal to the industry.

I was part of a delegation to the talks from the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Mineral Resources. This was a welcome move towards openness in an important national conversation.

During the weekend Mantashe made some encouraging statements about a fresh start for the industry. Now he needs to make sure his deeds match his words.

by James Lorimer MP – DA Shadow Minister of Mineral Resources