MPs urge mining Ministry to be vigilant on Gupta-owned mines

17:11 (GMT+2) Thu, 08 Mar 2018

JOHANNESBURG, March (ANA) - The Portfolio Committee on Mineral Resources on Thursday called on the Department of Mineral Resources (DMR) to be vigilant of the mines owned by Tegeta Exploration and Resources in order to prevent a situation that occurred at Aurora Empowerment Systems seven years ago.

At Aurora, directors stripped off assets of Pamodzi Gold and Orkney mines and sold them before declaring insolvency, leaving hundreds of workers destitute and without salaries.

Gupta-owned Tegeta is a parent company of the six mining operations -- Optimum coal mine, Koornfontein mine, Shiva Uranium, Brakfontein, Idwala and Vryheid Revival -- which account for more than 4,000 jobs.

Having been placed under a business rescue practitioner, the committee said that it was hopeful that a solution could still be found to rescue the mines and save jobs. 

"We are comforted by the fact that the Minister has paid an oversight visit to Optimum mine today to meet with stakeholders, with a view of finding a lasting solution," said Sahlulele Luzipo, chairperson of the committee.

Mineral Resources Minister Gwede Mantashe on Thursday met with workers at the Optimum coal mine in Mpumalanga as part of efforts to resolve challenges currently facing the mine.

Workers at the mine have gone on strike since February 21, demanding their salaries and answers about the security of their jobs since the whereabouts of the shareholders, the Gupta family, cannot be traced and payment to employees and suppliers has dried up. 

Louis Kloppers, senior business rescue practitioner, said the mines were still productive, but a challenge was to find a bank. He said they currently bank with the Bank of Baroda which has since decided to leave the country at the end of this month.

The committee further raised a concern about the fact that mining companies can be placed under business rescue without consulting the DMR, saying that the process could be abused.

 - African News Agency (ANA)