South Africa launches state-owned mining company

Jacob Zuma There has been a debate within the ruling ANC party over mine nationalisation

South African President Jacob Zuma has launched a state-owned mining company, called the African Exploration Mining and Finance Corporation (AEMFC).

However the move is likely to cause concern amongst international investors, who may view it as a step towards the nationalisation of South Africa's mining industry.

Mining is one of South Africa's most important economic sectors.

Mr Zuma said the body would bring all state mining interests into its remit.

"The role of the state cannot merely be confined to that of a regulator. The state must actively participate in the mining industry to ensure that our national interest is protected and advanced," Mr Zuma said.

"Government policy on minerals and mining does not make provision for the nationalization of mining assets, but it does not prevent the state from participating actively in mining, competing with other companies," he said.

Small step?

Recently South African mining minister Susan Shabangu moved to reassure investors when she said the nationalisation of mines was "not the option."

However there has been a debate within the ruling African National Congress party as to whether the country's mining industry should be fully nationalised.

The South African Communist Party also supports the nationalisation of mining.

"What is worrying for mining investors is, where does it go from here?" said Alison Turner, an analyst with Panmure Gordon.

"Is this just a small step to a much broader transfer... to state ownership?" she added.

South Africa is a a leading producer of precious metals such as gold and platinum as well as a major supplier of coal.

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