Firm denies abandoning burning coal stack

2014-02-03 00:00

HEAPS of coal at a mine in the catchment area of the Olifants River in the Mpumalanga Highveld, which is connected with the Gupta family, have now been burning for longer than a month.

The coal mine, where 200 000 tons of coal have been stacked in heaps, has apparently been abandoned. Sister paper Beeld has learned that the contractors who had to transport the coal from the Brakfontein Mine outside Delmas to buyers, have all withdrawn because they are owed millions of rands.

The heaps of coal had combusted at the start of January.

Steven Makwela, acting mine inspector in Witbank, yesterday said Ravindra Nath, executive director of Tegeta, received a warning about two weeks ago to put out the fire at Brakfontein. “He told me they will try, but they have other [more urgent] issues to address.”

He said he suspected these issues may have to do with their finances.

Bennie Du Rand of Dura Equipment Sales yesterday said he moved his front loader from the mine on Saturday after several contractors had warned him he will not get his money from Tegeta Resources.

He had only been on site for a day when he removed his equipment.

President Jacob Zuma’s son, Duduzane, is connected with Tegeta Resources, owners of the smouldering Brakfontein Mine.

Another contractor who wants to remain anonymous, said Tegeta Resources owes him R7,7 million. He started to work at Brakfontein on December 25, but withdrew shortly thereafter because Ravindra Nath, Tegeta’s executive director, had allegedly declared a dispute with him on payments. He said he had also not been paid for work he had done earlier at the contentious Vierfontein Mine of Idwala Coal, which he said had the same links to the Guptas as the Brakfontein Mine. Vierfontein Mine is a very big coal mine in the Olifants River outside Ogies.

Both these mines, Vierfontein and Brakfontein, were last year taken to task for committing serious environmental breaches. Both mines then applied for a correction in terms of section 24G of the National Environmental Management Act.

The contractor said he has learned that Brakfontein had received an administrative fine of R15 million. He said Vierfontein has also come to a standstill and the mine has been flooded. “They’re only pumping water there now.”

Johan Gericke, who farms on a neighbouring farm, said the smoke from the smouldering heaps of coal at Brakfontein was grinding him and his family down. “We are constantly coughing and are not getting well.”

Nath told Beeld the alleged air pollution should not bother anyone, as no one lived around the mine, “only a bunch of white Afrikaner boere”.

Nath also accused the paper of trying to drag the name of Tegeta and the Sahara Group (which belongs to the Guptas) through the mud.

He denied the mines had been abandoned.

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