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New minister to focus on safety

New Minister of
Mines Susan
Pretoria, South Africa — MININGREVIEW.COM — 12 May 2009 – South Africa’s new minister of mining says she intends focusing on enforcing safety measures to curb mining deaths which have hurt output, and on reviewing black economic empowerment in the industry.

In her first interview since taking office, Susan Shabangu told Reuters that she would also focus on issuing new mining permits to remove a backlog of applications, and would investigate the possibility of setting up a state mining firm.

Earlier this week, new South African President Jacob Zuma split the minerals and energy portfolio – seen by critics as being too large for one minister – and named Shabangu as mining minister in the world’s top source of platinum and No. 3 gold producer.

Shabangu described this move as a positive step to ease the handling of complex mining and energy issues in Africa’s biggest economy, which had suffered a severe power shortage in January last year that led to mines being shut down for days.

Shabangu – who has only held deputy ministerial positions before, including a long stint at the mines and energy ministry – came to prominence in April last year when she urged police to shoot criminals to curb the country’s high incidence of crime.

She said she would maintain the same forthright style, and told mining companies that she was ready for vigorous debate. “I believe in being forthright to be effective. I plan to take issues as they come head on. I have been here before and for me it’s not something new," Shabangu added.

She went on to say that her immediate assignment would be to oversee the first major review of the Mining Charter, a five-year-old agreement which was meant to bring more black ownership into mining, reversing decades of exclusion under white apartheid rule.

“We as a government want to revisit BEE,” she said. “We want to see if it has succeeded, or what we need to do better. We also want to review how mining companies have fared in terms of their social responsibilities to communities,” Shabangu added in reference to the building of roads, schools and hospitals.