JOHANNESBURG (ResourceInvestor.com) -- "Any day now, any way now, I shall be released" sang Bob Dylan wistfully and Harmony [HMY] CEO Bernard Swanepoel must no doubt agree wholeheartedly with those sentiments.
He's on tenterhooks waiting for official confirmation of the conversion of the "old order" mining rights into "new order" mining rights at the group's Evander operation in terms of South Africa's new mining legislation.
Swanepoel told delegates to the recent Denver Gold Forum that he had hoped to be able to announce the approval for Evander at the conference.
That did not happen because of some last minute hitches but Swanepoel indicated approval was still imminent.
A week later approval is still imminent. It seems the "hitches" have been sorted out and the announcement will be made either before, or to co-incide, with the release of Harmony's September quarterly results later this month.
There's a lot at stake for both Harmony and the SA government's Department of Minerals and Energy (DME) in this.
Getting approval for Evander would make Harmony the first mining company to achieve a conversion of "old order" mining rights.
That will be a huge plus for the group in the eyes of investors because it means a large, perceived business risk - the potential loss of mining rights - is being removed. Being the first to convert is also likely to earn Harmony plenty of "brownie points" with the DME
As Swanepoel told delegates at Denver - getting the conversion will prove the new system works provided you follow the rules.
From the SA government's side it's also important to prove that the system works. It will encourage other mining groups to apply sooner rather than later - there's a five year conversion window period - and also help counter negative international investor sentiment about the process.
So far Harmony has applied for conversion at Evander and Randfontein while Anglogold Ashanti has applied for conversion of all its various mining leases.
Sources indicate Anglogold is having a far tougher time of it than Harmony but that's denied by Anglogold Ashanti spokesman Alan Fine.
He says the group is in constant communication with the DME dealing with unforeseen developments that have cropped up during the application process but that the process is moving ahead smoothly.
It seems the "hitches" being encountered mainly involve the various social requirements - such as poverty alleviation and community development - being placed on the mining companies by the Mining Charter.
Most media attention has focussed on the 15% to 26% equity ownership requirement by black South Africans in terms of the Charter but the government appears more concerned about the social aspects.
Minister of Minerals and Energy Phumzile Mlambo-Ncguka has said that, if the Charter does not bring about real changes in the quality of life of communities, then the excercise will not have been worth it.
Amongst other measures she wants the social programmes implemented by the mines to be integrated with programmes being undertaken by the three tiers of government - local, provincial and central - and for mines in the same geographic localities to co-ordinate their actions.
Meeting those requirements must be onerous and time-consuming for mine managements, particularly when the main focus for many at present is survival in the current strong rand environment.