Amplats gives land to communities amid expropriation push

By Felix Njini

(Bloomberg) – Anglo American Platinum Ltd. is giving hundreds of hectares of land to communities living in a South African area that’s rich with the ore as the nation’s ruling party seeks to introduce laws that make it easier to expropriate land without paying for it.

The world’s top platinum supplier is handing over 270 hectares (667 acres) of land to people living in Rustenburg, about 140 kilometres (86 miles) northwest of Johannesburg. That almost doubles the area it has given to communities to 473 hectares since 2014.

The move comes as the African National Congress plans to change the constitution to make it easier to seize land without paying for it. Lawmakers have also introduced separate draft legislation that outlines the circumstances under which the state can do this. The ANC says the amendments are needed to address racially skewed ownership patterns dating back to colonialism and white-minority rule. Farmers’ groups and some opposition parties say this will undermine property rights and deter investment, and that they will contest any changes in court.

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Amplats, whose parent Anglo American Plc was founded in South Africa more than a century ago, sees the proposals on land expropriation without compensation as “just one element of a broader program,” Chief Executive Officer Chris Griffith said. The donation shows “how business and mining companies can embrace land reform to release well-located urban land available for low-cost housing so that the poor can own property and live close to economic opportunities,” he said.

Anglo plans to spend about R70bn ($4.8bn) over five years to expand output for platinum-group metals, diamonds, iron ore and coal in the country at mines that are the largest cash contributors to the group. South Africa needs an inclusive and sustainable solution to land reform, with the process benchmarked against improvements in people’s lives and boosting investment, CEO Mark Cutifani said in December.

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The areas that the company mines aren’t threatened by expropriation plans and Anglo is encouraged by President Cyril Ramaphosa’s efforts to redistribute land in a sustainable manner, Griffith said.

Other platinum-mining companies operating in the area should follow Anglo’s example and give more land to people in the area, Mineral Resources Minister Gwede Mantashe said.

Amplats is finalising a memorandum of understanding to donate a much bigger chunk of land in the area around Northam in the Limpopo province, Griffith said.