Negotiations on the draft Mining Charter started this weekend under the direction of Minister of Mineral Resources Gwede Mantashe, and his deputy Godfrey Oliphant.
Apart from AMCU, all interested parties, including mining trade unions Solidarity, the NUM and UASA, the Chamber of Mines, SAMDA, members of the Portfolio Committee on Mineral Resources and key officials and advisors of the Department of Mineral Resources were in attendance.
“While the role players were unanimous as to the importance of the mining sector and the challenges the sector has to overcome, robust debating about burning issues contained in the draft mining charter took place," states trade union Solidarity’s general secretary, Gideon du Plessis.
"The status of the draft mining charter that led to many court cases, new forms of “taxes” that are proposed in the charter, and ownership of mines generated hot but constructive debating,” adds Du Plessis.
According to Du Plessis, it was also the first time in almost two years that the principals of the respective interested parties sat down to reflect on important mining matters after the previous Department of Mineral Resources minister, Mosebenzi Zwane, had undone all consultation structures instituted by his predecessors.
“Fortunately, vital social dialogue was revived this weekend and it was also a unique occasion due to the fact that members of the Portfolio Committee were involved in the negotiations as part of their oversight role,” explains Du Plessis.
As a result of the weekend’s negotiations, a mining charter task team and a competitiveness task team were established.
The mining charter task team, consisting of representatives of all interested parties, will try to settle as many as possible of the differences between the parties and to produce its first report by 10 April 2018.
All parties committed themselves to the finalisation of the charter within the three-month timeframe agreed upon by new Minister of Mineral Resources Mantashe and President Cyril Ramaphosa.
“This weekend some agreements on certain changes to the draft charter have already been reached in principle, giving momentum to the process.
"During the negotiations, Solidarity emphasised, among other things, the retrenchments that may arise from the charter as well as the unconstitutionality of the charter’s provisions that appointments must be made on the basis of national demographics and white employees be excluded from employee stock ownership plans (Esops)," explains Du Plessis.
"In reaction to this, the government representatives acknowledged that the Esop clause was problematic and that it would have a divisive effect among employees,” he explains.
According to Du Plessis, the competitiveness task team will initially consider the impact of the charter on the mining industry but after implementation of the charter the task team will become a standing committee focusing on aspects that will improve competitiveness and sustainability in the mining industry.
“The fact that AMCU did show up at the negotiations is no longer a matter of concern for the role players because it has become the pattern since AMCU’s arrival on the scene in 2012 after the Marikana incident," he continues.
"AMCU will still be invited to all meetings but ultimately it will be AMCU’s members who will have to reflect on the AMCU leadership’s decision to boycott the process regarding the writing of the all-important mining charter,” says Du Plessis.
“In addition, Minister Mantashe indicated that mining communities, and especially community leaders, will be consulted during a road show to ensure that the current trust deficit between mining communities and the rest of the mining industry is dealt with,” continues Du Plessis.
“Mantashe’s knowledge of the mining industry was visible this weekend and he led from the front. The Minister also reiterated the government’s commitment to the recovery and growth of the mining industry,” concludes Du Plessis.