JOHANNESBURG (ResourceInvestor.com) -- Legal measures taken by various mining companies to safeguard against possible expropriation seem to have soured relationships with the SA government.
They are apparently being viewed as "unpatriotic" despite acting within the laws of the country. All these companies have previously declared their commitment to the cause of transformation in the SA mining industry.
It seems particular government ire is being directed against the four foreign companies - Lonmin, Aquarius Platinum, Placer Dome and Southern Era - which were first named in a Financial Times article as taking this action.
On Wednesday night Aquarius staged a major party in Johannesburg to celebrate the conclusion of its deal through which R860m is being invested by a black economic empowerment (BEE) consortium to acquire 23% of the company.
Minister of Minerals and Energy Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka was supposed to be the key-note speaker but she did not pitch. Neither did anyone from the Department of Minerals and Energy (DME).
This is despite the fact that the BEE consortium includes members of some of the most prominent families linked to the creation of the "new" South Africa. We are talking about black "heavy hitters" like Zwelakhe Sisulu, Zenani Mandela-Dlamini and Nontsikelelo Biko.
Suspicion is the "no shows" are linked to the legal action by Aquarius.
Aquarius CEO Stuart Murray comments; "I do not know why the Minister failed to arrive. No official from the DME contacted us to say the Minister would not attend."
Yvonne Mfolo, spokesperson for the Minister, says that Mlambo-Ngcuka was on "sick leave" from Wednesday afternoon and that most of the top DME staff was in Cape Town.
Early indication of pressure on Aquarius is apparent from the company statement issued on November 1.
That said; "Aquarius has at all times aligned itself with the transformation in the South African mining industry and the serving of notice on the Government must not be construed as a deviation from this stance.
"The company is, however, obliged to take all such steps as may be necessary within the South African legal context to protect the investment of its shareholders."
The point is that Aquarius is precisely the kind of junior mining company that the South African government says it wants to attract.
Aquarius has developed a successful business mining platinum resources that the established majors - Impala Platinum, Anglo Platinum and Lonmin - had not been prepared to mine.
The company was the first to prove that "Australian-style" mining techniques involving mechanisation and the use of mining contractors could be applied to these marginal ore bodies.
So far it has developed two new platinum mines and the R860m now received will be used to build a third.
The BEE deal makes Aquarius fully compliant with the new mining legislation putting it at the forefront of transformation in the SA mining industry.
Aquarius will also be the first foreign company to take advantage of recent relaxations in SA foreign exchange regulations to set up a secondary listing of its shares on the JSE Securities Exchange.
This is a company that is doing all the right things for SA. Does it make sense for Government to hassle it?