The proposed amendments to the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act ("MPRDA") being put  on hold by Mineral Resources Minister Ngoako Ramatlhodi is a positive move for the South African Mining Industry, says  international law firm Hogan Lovells (South Africa) head of mining and partner, Warren Beech  ("Beech"). He adds that there is also an ongoing discussion regarding possibly separating oil and  gas from the MPRDA, and these commodities are going to become increasingly important for the South  African economy.

“The actions of the Minister do impact on regulatory certainty,” notes Beech.

Despite the decision to delay the implementation of the MPRDA Amendments increasing investor’s  cautiousness, Beech says that this delay will be constructive. However, he notes that the Minister  will have to implement certain changes to settle perceptions about the uncertainty and volatility  of the industry in South Africa.

Labour Relations Amendment Act

Beech highlights that the possibility of strikes must be high on Mr Ramatlhlodi’s agenda, as the  strength of the Trade Unions and another strike can have significant consequences for the South  African Mining Industry and the economy in general.

He explains that the Mining Industry uses contract labour extensively, which the Unions have been  fighting for several years - sometimes justifiably so - “contract employees, who work alongside  permanent employees, often do not receive the same benefits.”

The Labour Relations Amendment Act, which came into effect this month, restricts the duration of a  contract to a maximum of three months. “Employers are required to justify why the employee is on a  short term contract and if employment exceeds three months, a permanent contract must be offered,”  explains Beech. Arcelormittal Judgment Beech highlights that steel corporation ArcelorMittal denied non-governmental organisation The  Justice Alliance access to the company’s environmental information when requested in terms of the  access to information act, arguing, amongst others, that the organisation was trying to play the  role of Government.

Beech says this judgement of the Supreme Court of Appeal paved the way for environmental groups, to  be more active in the South African Mining Industry.

Meanwhile, he points out that mines not only require relevant rights and authorizations from  Government to mine lawfully, but that there is an increasing need to be good corporate citizens and  to obtain a "social licence", adding that this includes looking after surrounding communities.

He adds that looking forward; the industry needs to be fully compliant with existing and pending  regulatory requirements. This may be extremely challenging, given the current financial situation  of many mines.

It is therefore also appropriate for Government and all stakeholders to accommodate and give  latitude to mining companies that are in financial difficulty, through a process of communication  and commitment to the implementation of practical action plans, so that all participants can  continue to benefit Beech concludes. (Originally posted in Engineering News on 30 January 2015)