This is the opinion of think tank the Institute of Race Relations (IRR) in their latest report about mining in the country. The IRR says if government interference less with the mining industry it will enable the industry to contribute much more effectively towards overcoming South Africa\u2019s three critical enemies of poverty, unemployment and inequality.\n\n\n\nThe report argues that it is through the business of mining - exploiting the country\u2019s rich and largely untapped mineral resources - rather than by meeting onerous empowerment and other obligations that the sector will be capable of making a much greater contribution to growing the economy, creating jobs, and enabling South Africans to have better lives. \n\n\n\nThe report acknowledges that the September 2018 Mining Charter should be considered an improvement on its predecessors and will \u2018surely help\u2019 to attract some new investment, \u2018it is nonetheless doubtful that the new Mining Charter will provide that huge capital injection which mining and the wider economy so badly need\u2019. \n\n\n\nThe key test, writes author of the report, IRR consultant Peter Fabricius, is not how the 2018 Mining Charter measures up against previous versions, \u2018but against the context of a real-world economy in which population growth has outstripped faltering economic growth for some five years, leaving unemployment at an unsustainable level of 27% or more\u2019.\n\n\n\nAnd by this measure, the new charter falls short, because it \u2018still imposes a substantial Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) burden which will very probably discourage many foreign investors particularly\u2019, and because \u2018it does not seem to have gone far enough in erasing the prevailing uncertainty and unpredictability generated by repeated revisions to the original Mining Charter - which came into effect in 2004 through the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act of 2002 - and other rules\u2019.\n\n\n\nThese requirements fall outside mining\u2019s \u2018core business of digging valuable minerals out of the ground\u2019, which, if it is left to succeed at what it does best, is the primary source of the sector\u2019s potential contribution to the economy and the country as a whole.\n\n\n\nThe report notes that although the relative importance of the mining industry has declined over the past few decades, \u2018it remains vital to the economy\u2019. Taking in related and dependent industries, its contribution still amounts to 17% of the economy, and it contributes more than 10% to the economies of four of the country\u2019s nine provinces - Northern Cape, Mpumalanga, Limpopo and North West. \n\n\n\n\u2018Its importance as an employer is even greater. Nationally, over half a million people are working in mining. Adding indirect employment generated by the industry, the number rises to about 1.3 million. Mining also accounts for a large share of South Africa\u2019s exports - about 25%, rising to 40% when beneficiated minerals are included.\u2019\n\n\n\nThus, the report argues, \u2018mining remains critical to tackling South Africa\u2019s three key economic enemies, as identified by the ANC; poverty, unemployment and inequality.\u2019\n\n\n\nBut if it is to \u2018play a meaningful role in that fight, mining needs a huge injection of investment, local and foreign\u2019. \n\n\n\nThe report acknowledges that there can be no question that historic wrongs in the mining industry need remedying, but cautions: \u2018It is not helpful to do so in ways which harm the economy and lead to poorer South Africans losing work and income\u2019.\n\n\n\nEngineering a larger black middle class\n\n\n\n\u2018The fundamental question then is whether mining companies would better serve the whole country by essentially doing more of what they are good at, i.e. mining, rather than by being obliged to try to help engineer a larger black middle class.\u2019\n\n\n\nThe report argues that it is now \u2018widely acknowledged that BEE \u2026 has not worked (as it has) largely made a small rich elite richer while mainly leaving the majority of the black population still in poverty\u2019.\n\n\n\nThe answer would be to move the \u2018focus of empowerment away from race entirely and towards eradicating poverty - where it surely should be\u2019 via a policy, such as the IRR\u2019s Economic Empowerment for the Disadvantaged (EED), which would address disadvantage directly and award points on an EED scorecard to companies which, among other things, invested more, created more jobs, paid more tax and generated higher foreign earnings. \n\n\n\nThis approach, the report argues, \u2018should correct the distortions both of the past and of the mining Charters by stimulating more investment in mining and also by spreading much more of the wealth derived from our huge mineral reserves to the neediest members of our society\u2019.\n\n\n\nRead the full report here www.irr.org.za .