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EDITIONS
Thursday, 10 October, 2002, 10:37 GMT 11:37 UK
South African mines charter welcomed
A miner at work
Mining generates a third of South Africa's exports
Some of the world's largest mining companies have welcomed the South African "black empowerment" charter transferring mine ownership to black-run companies.

AngloGold, the country's biggest gold miner, BHP Billiton and Harmony Gold have all said they support the charter.


It is not a free ride. Everything has to be acquired at current market value of that particular property.

Keith Goode
Eagle Mining Research
South Africa's cabinet approved a draft of the charter on Wednesday under which some 26% of existing mines in the country would be owned by black-run companies within 10 years

South African President Thabo Mbeki described the approval as "one of the brightest days in the history of our transformation".

The charter comes just days after security guards shot dead two mineworkers and wounded 14 others during a strike at East Rand Proprietary Mines in Boksburg, east of Johannesburg.

Vital sector

"We need industry, industry needs us, so we want a common agenda," Minerals and Energy Minister Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka told BBC World Business Report.

Ms Mlambo-Ngcuka said she did not see a contradiction between wanting to retain the traditional white mining companies, pressing ahead with strong black empowerment and seeking foreign investment.

"We would expect firms to take black partners into their business so that we can go forward in that way," she said.

Lengthy negotiations

The charter was negotiated between the government, mining companies - including some of the world's largest - and labour groups.

It is part of the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act which aims to rectify decades of exploitation of mineral rights granted to white-owned companies under colonial and then apartheid rule.

Mines in South Africa employ more than 500,000 workers - 4.3% of the country's total workforce - and the industry accounts for about one-third of all exports.

The government would like to see a 15% stake owned by black-owned companies within the next five years.

Big business pleased

AngloGold said the targets set in a final draft charter were achievable, especially the 15% target.

BHP Billiton said it generally supported the "broad objectives" of the charter.

"We have noted the charter's contents and in general support its broad objectives, most of which accord with long-established programmes underway in BHP Billiton," the company said in a statement.

Bernard Swanepoel, the chief executive of South Africa's third largest gold miner, Harmony Gold, said his company was well placed to meet the conditions ahead of the target dates.

"We are pleased with the outcome of the negotiations by the relevant stakeholders to the industry," Mr Swanepoel said in a statement.

Markets happy

In June, South Africa's National Assembly passed a mining bill, which was bitterly opposed by the big mining companies, to transfers control of all mineral rights to the state as is common in most countries.

The mining charter, a part of the mining bill, was leaked to the local media in July and at the time government was proposing that black companies would be given a 51% stake in all mines within 10 years.

The revelation sent mining shares tumbling.

Analysts are now satisfied that mining companies would be paid for the assets transferred to black control.

"It is not a free ride," Eagle Mining Research managing director Keith Goode said.

"Everything has to be acquired at current market value of that particular property," he added.

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Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Mining Minister
"It's a common agenda - we need industry, industry needs us"
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09 Oct 02 | Business
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