South African mining companies aren’t required to top up black ownership levels if they’ve previously met the minimum requirements, a court ruled Wednesday.
The decision is a victory for the Chamber of Mines, a lobby representing most producers, which sought a declaratory order on the so-called “once empowered, always empowered” principle. It may also have implications for discussions over a new Mining Charter between the industry and Mineral Resources Minister Gwede Mantashe.
The first two mining charters — rules aimed at distributing the wealth and benefits from the industry more widely — do allow companies to count previous sales to black investors to reach the black-ownership requirements, even if those investors later sold their shares to whites or foreigners, the High Court in Pretoria said in a judgment Wednesday, which the chamber posted on its website.
The dispute over “once empowered, always empowered” was revived last year after then-Mineral Resources Minister Mosebenzi Zwane published a third version of the mining charter, furiously criticised by the mining industry, that he said required companies to maintain the minimum ownership level.
Mantashe was appointed in February by new President Cyril Ramaphosa, who has pledged to find a solution to the dispute over last year’s charter.
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