UPDATE 1-S.Africa mines minister to soon give view on charter

Fri Aug 26, 2011 10:30am EDT

Related Topics

* Charter compliance hot political issue

* Chamber of Mines says its members already met targets

* Nationalisation talk has unnerved investors (Adds background)

By Ed Stoddard

JOHANNESBURG, Aug 26 (Reuters) - South Africa's mines minister Susan Shabangu will soon give her assessment of industry progress in reaching the targets of a charter aimed at giving previously excluded blacks a higher share of ownership, her spokesperson said on Friday.

"We expect the minister to pronounce on this issue within a matter of weeks once she has looked at all these latest reports," Bheki Khumalo told Reuters, referring to reports that mining companies had to submit to the government by the end of July.

The company reports include their scorecards of progress they are making towards the charter's goals which include ensuring the industry in the world's largest platinum producer is at least 26 percent black-owned by 2014.

South Africa's Chamber of Mines said on Wednesday black ownership among its members averaged 28 percent, already exceeding the targets -- politically charged findings at odds with anything the government has said to date.

The government has long held that companies are lagging in moves to give blacks a bigger share of the mining industry, and the sector's charter is part of a wider "empowerment" drive across Africa's largest economy aimed at rectifying the disparities of white apartheid rule.

Meeting its goals is seen as one way to blunt a push by radical elements in the ruling African National Congress to nationalise the industry, a prospect that has unnerved investors but also focused attention on pressing issues such as poverty, unemployment, and racial imbalances in ownership.

Shabangu told Reuters last weekend she was confident the targets would be exceeded by 2014 but no one from government has suggested it is close yet.

In fact, government officials said on Wednesday they would toughen the rules to ensure compliance.

Only 8.9 percent of mines were owned by blacks in 2009, well below a target of 15 percent.

Members of South Africa's chamber of mines include Anglo American Platinum , the world's top platinum producer, Anglo Gold Ashanti and Kumba Iron Ore . (Editing by Keiron Henderson)

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