Reopening of Optimum Coal Mine in Hendrina hits a snag

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The envisaged re-opening of the Gupta-owned Optimum Coal Mine in Hendrina, Mpumalanga, could be further delayed. This comes after the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) called for the business rescue process at the mine to be halted. It is reported that the NPA is intending to forfeit the assets of the mine, claiming that they are the proceeds of crime.  

The Optimum Coal Mine was placed under business rescue in 2018. About 4 500 workers who were retrenched, have pinned their hopes on the business rescue practitioners re-opening the mine. But now the NPA is reportedly intending to forfeit the assets of the mine.  

National Union of Mineworkers’ Branch Secretary, Richard Mguzulu, says the former workers are disappointed by the new developments. 

“Only when we are about to start recalling the retrenched employees then there’s a matter that comes from the NPA that says the process of fully transferring mining rights mustn’t continue, because of the Gupta buying it from the previous owners with a dirty money. So, our concern … we are not saying that the NPA should not apply the law if there is a need, but they need to check that there’s livelihoods behind this whole thing.” 

Legal representative of the business rescue practitioners, Bouwer van Niekerk, confirms that they were contacted by the NPA’s Asset Forfeiture Unit regarding their intention. 

“They have requested that (we) agree to certain timeframes, by when we should exchange affidavits and the likes, to make sure that the argument itself is argued in front of the High Court in March next year. The relevance is that as things stand, at the at moment, the business rescue plan of Optimum Coal Mine must be adopted by the end of 28 of March next year. We have responded to the NDPP in detail. We have set out why we can’t give certain undertakings, but there is no risk of the assets being dissipated.” 

Van Niekerk says this happens while there’s an interdict against the implementation of the current business rescue plan. 

“There’s an interdict against the convening of a meeting in terms of companies act to vote on a business rescue plan for Optimum Coal Terminal. That is the company that holds the export allocation. The adoption of that plan is necessary for the final adoption of the Optimum Coal Mine plan. That application for the interdict was launched by the directors of Tegeta.” 

The NPA has promised to comment on the matter soon.