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DA cries corruption over Optimum

Glencore shut down Optimum's opencast operations last year, after Eskom reneging on Optimum's supply deal to the Hendrina Power Station.

The joint rescue practitioners of Optimum Coal Holdings, Piers Marsden and Peter van der Steen, confirmed that Optimum’s coal terminal and Koornfontein mine, has been sold to Tegeta Exploration tasked with developing the mainly coal mining assets of Oakbay Investment Group, a mining investment driver with a majority stake belonging to the controversial Gupta family.

The business rescue practitioners jointly said that reports that Endulwini Mining bought Optimum, Koornfontein and assets for R3,17 billion on August 5, 2015.

Endulwini’s chairman, Mr Sipho Dube, did however make an indicative offer of R1,5 billion but the offer was not binding.

“It was conditional on funding and due diligence,” the practitioners said, adding that the offer excluded commitments regarding an equity share scheme.

Endulwini’s offer was rejected for the lack of prospects of implementation.

The practitioners concluded however that the offer from Tegeta of R2,15 billion for the mines, provided the most compelling value for stakeholders, including the mines’ creditors.

Meanwhile the DA’s shadow minister of mineral resources, Mr James Lorimer MP, is casting shadow on the Gupta’s Optimum deal saying mineral Resources Minister Mosebenzi Zwane, involved himself directly with negotiations between the Gupta’s and Swiss based Glencore Holdings, former owner of Optimum Coal Holdings.

Mr Lorimer says the Gupta’s are taking over coal deals from Eskom worth billions, rumoured to include Exxaro’s Arnot Mine, with whom Eskom’s has also cut ties with.

Optimum supplied Arnot’s Power Plant with coal in January, as one of a number of interim suppliers to Eskom who preferred not to renew the 40-year supply contract for coal supply to Arnot power Plant in December, due to over inflated coal prices, and the mine failing to meet contractual delivery targets.

Altogether 1700 miners face losing their jobs at the embattled Arnot mine, and many have already jumped the sinking ship. According to Mr Lorimer, Minister Zwane’s improper involvement with the Guptas’ Optimum deal is not in dispute.

“Minister Zwane himself admitted that he travelled to Switzerland with the Gupta’s to help push through the deal to buy the mine from Glencore. He claims that his aim was to save jobs. Though this is an admirable purported goal, the trip was, at best, unwise for a Minister trying to prove to the mining industry that he is even-handed and unbiased, given his previous close association with the Gupta’s. At worst, it shows that the Minister as committed strictly to the

interests of the Gupta family and other Zuma allies instead of the good of the mining industries and its workers,” Mr Lorimer says.

Lorimer also bemoans Eskom’s motives saying “now that the distressed mine has been scooped up by the Gupta’s for a fraction of its value, Eskom is suddenly prepared to do business with Optimum again”.

“This reeks of corruption,” Mr Lorimer says, motivating that Eskom has cancelled contracts with BEE-owned miner Exxaro, in favour of the Gupta’s Optimum, potentially putting 1700 jobs at risk.

Gerhard Rheeder

I have been a journalist for two decades, with numerous awards to my credit, both in photography and writing. A brief stint as researcher in the opposition offices of the Mpumalanga Provincial Legislature, honed my skills as specialist local government reporter, covering crime and courts.
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