S.Africa mining group seeks court's clarity on black ownership rule

JOHANNESBURG - South Africa's chamber of mines has asked the courts to resolve a dispute with the government over a black ownership target of 26 percent for mining companies, the body said on Friday.

The mining sector is at loggerheads with the government over the issue set out in a state charter aimed at redressing the imbalances of white apartheid rule which ended two decades ago.

Mining firms say that once a company is 26 percent black-owned, it has complied with transformation targets, even if some of the black shareholders then sell out. The state says firms must keep the 26 percent ratio as a minimum.

Mines minister Ngoako Ramatlhodi had said in March the two sides would go to court to end the impasse. "The industry and its stakeholders need regulatory certainty ... so as to ensure the sustainability of the industry," the chamber's chief executive Roger Baxter said.

He said the chamber filed the court petition by itself because a joint application would suggest a form of agreement between the mining group and the state.

Failure to meet the black ownership targets can result in mining permits or rights being revoked in a sector already struggling with labour unrest, soaring wage and power costs, dwindling reserves and depressed metal prices.