South Africa withdraws plans for moratorium on mining rights

South Africa’s Department of Minerals withdrew plans to impose a moratorium on granting and renewing mining rights and will explore other measures to ensure companies are compliant with the industry charter.

Views submitted to the department about the potential impact of the freeze, particularly from junior miners, suggested that alternative means must be explored to ensure companies are compliant with the industry charter, the department said on its Twitter account on Thursday.

“Based on the reasoned submissions made, the department will not pursue the moratorium,” it said. The decision was announced before a High Court hearing on Friday in which the main industry lobby group, the Chamber of Mines, planned to seek an order seeking a suspension of the order.

The legal battle began after Mines Minister Mosebenzi Zwane in June published a new Mining Charter, which would require mining assets in South Africa to be 30 percent black-owned, up from 26 percent.

Moreover previous deals from which black investors have since sold out are not given full credit, raising concerns about dilution for existing shareholders.

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

Zwane had said the rights freeze, proposed last month, was 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 had until Friday to respond to the moratorium notice.