The South African Chamber of Mines says that the department of mineral resources (DMR) has started implementing its moratorium on issuing new prospecting rights a full day before public consultations on the proposal are completed.
The Chamber said that it has received word that the DMR head office had sent notices to regional offices to stop processing section 11, new mining right or prospecting right applications submitted by mining companies after 19 July 2017.
However, the department has denied the claim and says that the Chamber has been misinformed.
It said that the department approved a section 11 application between AngloPlatinum and Lonmin as recently as 26 July 2017, which would not have been possible had the moratorium been in place as the Chamber of Mines is claiming.
“No decision has been taken by the Minister to implement the moratorium. The statement by the Chamber of Mines is therefore misinformed,” it said.
The new regulation was gazetted in mid July, seeking to put restrictions on the transfer of mineral rights between companies. Critics said it was a move by minister Mosebezi Zwane to try and get around the suspension of the controversial new mining charter, which would have seen all mining operations forced to be 30% black-owned in the country.
The Chamber of Mines has been pushing back against the moratorium, saying it will effectively freeze investment, prevent many companies from restructuring and may lead to even more job losses in the sector.
“It flies in the face of the calls by the industry’s trade unions for the moratorium proposal to be withdrawn and in terms of the Chamber’s urgent court interdict application to have the notice and proposed moratorium stopped from being implemented and thereafter reviewed and set-aside,” the Chamber said.
“This demonstrates the department of mineral resources leadership’s disregard for the crisis facing the mining sector and the negative implications that a moratorium may have on the viability of struggling mining companies and the jobs that could be lost as a direct consequence.
“At this time of crisis, the mining companies require the flexibility to restructure for survival,” it said.
The mining charter and the rights freeze have hit investor confidence in the industry hard, wiping as much as R50 billion from the sector.
The Chamber said its urgent interdict application to prohibit the Minister from implementing the moratorium will be heard in the High Court on Friday 4 August 2017.