Cham­ber of Mines goes to court

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THE CHAM­BER of Mines, which rep­re­sents the South African min­ing in­dus­try, made a court ap­pli­ca­tion to block the mines min­is­ter’s pro­posal to freeze grant­ing and re­new­ing min­ing rights, in­ten­si­fy­ing a le­gal clash be­tween the two sides.

The lobby group is­sued the ap­pli­ca­tion with the Pre­to­ria High Court “to re­view and set aside the no­tice and to in­ter­dict the min­is­ter from tak­ing any de­ci­sion or is­su­ing any di­rec­tive con­tem­plated in the no­tice,” it said in a state­ment yes­ter­day.

The ob­jec­tion is part of the in­dus­try’s bat­tle against a con­tro­ver­sial new Min­ing Char­ter pub­lished last month.

A le­gal bat­tle with in­dus­try be­gan af­ter Mines Min­is­ter Mosebenzi Zwane is­sued the coun­try’s lat­est char­ter, which would re­quire min­ing as­sets in South Africa to be 30 per­cent black­owned, up from 26 per­cent, and pre­vi­ous deals from which black in­vestors have since sold out are not given full credit, rais­ing con­cerns about di­lu­tion for ex­ist­ing in­vestors.

The cham­ber moved to block the char­ter in a case due to be heard in Septem­ber.

Zwane has said a rights freeze pro­posed last week is nec­es­sary to en­sure that no rights are ap­proved with­out be­ing sub­ject to the new char­ter reg­u­la­tions, which he has agreed to sus­pend pend­ing an ini­tial court judg­ment. The public has un­til Au­gust 4 to re­spond to the mora­to­rium no­tice.

Mora­to­rium

The lobby group said it has been ad­vised that the sep­a­rate mora­to­rium no­tice was un­law­ful, be­cause it would dam­age the min­ing sec­tor and ex­ceeds the min­is­ter’s pow­ers.

The ur­gent ap­pli­ca­tion to set the no­tice aside will be heard on the dead­line for public com­ment.

Mean­while, Zwane yes­ter­day wel­comed a court rul­ing which af­firms the le­git­i­macy of the gov­ern­ment’s au­thor­ity to mon­i­tor the move­ment of un­pol­ished di­a­monds.

The rul­ing was a pos­i­tive move for the ad­vance­ment of trans­for­ma­tion of the min­ing in­dus­try, Zwane said.

The Con­sti­tu­tional Court on Mon­day de­clined to con­firm a high court or­der which de­clared that a sec­tion of the Di­a­mond Act was un­con­sti­tu­tional.

Sec­tion 20A of the Act, which was put in place in 2007, stated that no li­censee may be as­sisted by a non-li­censee dur­ing the view­ing, pur­chas­ing or sell­ing of un­pol­ished di­a­monds at any place where un­pol­ished di­a­monds are of­fered for sale, ex­cept at di­a­mond ex­change and ex­port cen­tres.

The South African Di­a­mond Pro­duc­ers Or­gan­i­sa­tion ap­proached the High Court in Pre­to­ria ear­lier this year to de­clare the sec­tion un­con­sti­tu­tional.

The or­gan­i­sa­tion com­plained that pro­duc­ers and deal­ers were de­prived of 30 per­cent of the mar­ket value of di­a­monds they sell due to Sec­tion 20A of the Di­a­mond Act, which pro­hibits a key part of the price-form­ing mech­a­nism: the un­li­censed ex­pert as­sis­tance.

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