More tough talking from South Africa’s mining minister.

Speaking to journalists at the Mining Indaba conference in Cape Town, Mosebenzi Zwane said the time for negotiation over changes to the country’s mining charter was over.

“We have been dealing with this for far too long. We believe this year should be a year of action,” said Mr Zwane.

The latest draft of South African’s mining charter requires companies to keep the level of black ownership at 26 per cent, even when original investors sell out. This has triggered a furious response from the industry, which has threatened to take the government to court.

Miners say requiring them to maintain 26 per cent level of black ownership would force them to dilute other investors and therefore destroy shareholder value.

Asked on Thursday if there could be a compromise on the 26 per cent rule Mr Zwane gave little away.

“The new mining charter will come out with some changes,” he said. “We are not going to negotiate for ever, everybody understands that. At a point we have to begin to implement,” said Mr Zwane.

The government is planning to ‘gazette’ or implement the new mining charter by the middle of March.

The issue has hung over Mining Indaba, the biggest annual gathering of the mining industry.

In his address to the conference on Monday, Mark Cutifani, the chief executive of Anglo American, said biggest owners of mining assets in South African today were ordinary individuals of all races through their pension funds, not the magnates of the past.

“Many people still don’t understand that the owners of most South African publicly listed mining companies are not the “Randlords” or magnates of the previous generations, but rather, ordinary pension and investment fund owners – that is, average South African citizens of all races: Black, White, Coloured and Indian”, he said.

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