EXCLUSIVE | Gupta mines to start operating tomorrow

Four mines owned by the Gupta family will be back up and running on Saturday after some were shut down by striking workers for a little more than a week.

Louis Klopper‚ one of the business rescue practitioners appointed to run the mines‚ told TimesLIVE exclusively on Friday afternoon that by 6am on Saturday all the mines would be back up and running.

“In the past week I have driven more than 2‚000km between the four operations and am happy to say that operations will resume‚” Klopper said.

Workers at Optimum Coal near Middelburg in Mpumalanga‚ the flagship coal mine owned by the Gupta family‚ have been on strike since Saturday last week after salaries were not paid on February 25.

Workers at Koornfontein‚ near Optimum‚ and Brakfontein‚ near Delmas‚ followed suit in the week. Employees at the Gupta’s fourth mine‚ Shiva Uranium‚ downed tools on Thursday also after salaries had not been paid.

But by Friday morning all salaries were paid and Klopper had visited each mine to discuss the resumption of work.

“I have had cordial and friendly discussions with the unions and labour at each mine and we reached agreements‚” he explained.

Klopper added that suppliers of services to the mines‚ including around 1‚500 contract workers at Optimum‚ would be meeting with the business rescue practitioners early next week to discuss monies owed to each supplier by the mines.

TimesLIVE visited the mines during the week and learned that at Brakfontein an explosives supplier was removing its equipment from site while a supplier of machinery at Optimum was also making plans to remove its property.

The mines are part of seven companies placed under voluntary liquidation‚ which includes Gupta-owned arms manufacturer VR Laser and property companies Confident Concepts and Islandsite Investments 180.

In a sworn statement attached to documents filed with the Companies and Intellectual Properties Commission‚ Optimum’s sole director‚ Ugeshni Govender‚ said the decision was taken to place the company under business rescue on February 16.

“The entity [Optimum] may come into financial distress due to the fact that the four larger South African banks previously terminated any financial relationship which left the Bank of Baroda as the last financial institution doing business with the entity‚” Govender’s statement reads.

“During or on February 12… Baroda [the Bank of Baroda] notified the Registrar of Banks of its intention to exit South Africa. The withdrawal of the bank…shall cause undue and unfair impediment upon [Optimum] of its ability to conduct business.”

The Gupta family companies also approached the Pretoria High Court this week to try and compel the bank to stay in the country.

However‚ Baroda has argued that it was given notice by Nedbank‚ Baroda’s sponsor bank‚ that it would be terminating its relationship with Baroda at the end of March.

Judgement is expected on March 12.

Klopper‚ meanwhile‚ said he expected to be in a position to make an announcement on banking issues early next week.

By: Kyle Cowan – TimesLIVE

Source: TMG Digital.

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