March 20, 2018 / 11:52 AM / a month ago

South Africa mines minister to ready black ownership rules by May

* Minister promises more consultation with the sector

* Industry backs minister’s approach after meeting

* Charter aims to include more black people in mining

By Tanisha Heiberg

PRETORIA, March 20 (Reuters) - South Africa aims to finalise revised plans for black ownership in the mining industry by the end of May, Minister of Mineral Resources Gwede Mantashe said on Tuesday, promising to deliver “policy certainty” to an industry worried about new costs.

Mantashe acknowledged a “lack of consultation between the ministry and the partners in the past”, a message that was well received by companies in the sector where uncertainty about the Mining Charter has deterred investment for months.

A draft of the charter - part of a drive to address lingering racial disparities two decades after apartheid - would raise the target for black ownership to 30 percent from 26 percent and make companies pay 1 percent of turnover to an agency to help black communities.

Mantashe, chairman of the ruling African National Congress and a former head of the National Union of Mineworkers, met companies and unions a the weekend and said he aimed to re-establish trust.

“Uppermost in our minds is that we should ensure that there is policy certainty,” he told reporters in a briefing about the “robust and open” meeting.

The Chamber of Mines, which represents the companies, has suspended a court challenge to revisions to the charter drawn up by Mantashe’s predecessor, Mosebenzi Zwane, which it says were imposed without consultation.

The chamber says many of those rules are unaffordable for an industry that accounts for about 8 percent of gross domestic product but is grappling with depressed prices and rising costs.

Welcoming Mantashe’s approach, it said in a statement: “We are aligned with the Minister’s thinking that transformation, competitiveness and growth are and should be mutually reinforcing goals.” (Additional reporting by Patricia Aruo Writing by James Macharia Editing by Robin Pomeroy)

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