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14 Oct 2021

The Southern Times

S. Africa: Call for all mining companies should be public companies due to the social, environmental & economic significance they have

‘Big miners getting away with murder’ 9 October 2021

A globally significant chrome producer operating six chrome mines and employing 7,000 people inside South Africa – with a social labour plan obligation on every mine, with tax and royalty obligations paid to the state – is permitted to operate in this country with no ongoing public disclosure requirements. Yet a tiny exploration company with six employees that happens to have listed on the stock exchange, would have the full King Code to contend with. “It’s not that public companies have an onerous obligation. Public companies, because they are significant and they have public shareholders, probably have the right amount of reporting obligations. “The problem is that large, significant private companies have no obligations to report to the public at large – and reporting to the Companies and Intellectual Property Commission (CIPC), where the document disappears, and nobody ever sees it again, is by no means reporting to the public at large,” says AmaranthCX director and owner Paul Miller, who spoke to Mining Weekly in a Zoom interview.

If large, listed companies are asked to report comprehensively simply because they are listed, and socially, environmentally and economically significant private companies do not have to report anything at all, why would any company choose to be listed if they can find the capital elsewhere?... “We’ve got to close that gap and we’ve got to stop saying that a company needs to report because they’re listed. Stakeholders are no longer only shareholders, but civil society, employees and the environment itself. If a company is having an impact on all those things, it should have the same reporting obligations. But we’re not seeing that,” Miller emphasised, citing the example of being able to go to Companies House in the UK and request, for five pounds, any UK company’s financial statements.

…Transparency is important and it is interesting how South Africa has chosen its own unique path on how the country goes about ensuring transparency in the mining industry, even though the minerals of South Africa are held in custodianship for the benefit of all people of South Africa. In addition to some large mining companies having no obligation to report to the citizens of the country whose minerals they are exploiting, the ownership of a mining right or a prospecting right is also allowed to be hidden.