NUM march to Union Buildings for Optimum coal miners stuck in limbo

The National Union of Mineworkers led 2 000 workers from the Optimum colliery in Koornfontein, Mpumalanga, to the Union Buildings, where NUM threatened a possible sector shutdown in solidarity if the Koornfontein mineworkers’ demands were not met.

Meanwhile, Project Halo, the consortium which won a bid for the mines owned by Tegeta Exploration & Resources, insisted on Tuesday that there was no impropriety in their R3.6bn bid process to secure the assets.

Among other things, the union asked that workers at the colliery be paid salaries, which they have had to survive without for three months. Operations at the mine have been stuck in limbo since the Bank of Baroda and the Gupta family – which owned Tegeta – left the country.

The National Union of Mineworkers marched to the Union Buildings on Wednesday, asking government to ensure the mineworkers at Optimum receive salaries after they were left stranded by Tegeta’s fall into business rescue.

NUM Highveld regional secretary Tshilidzi Mathavha told Fin24 that the march was successful, with the entire workforce of the coal mine present.

"We had more than 2 000 members, which is the total workforce at Koornfontein. We were sent an official, but said we needed someone from the Presidency. Even if it is the director general," said Mathavha.

Mathavha said the union may be forced to escalate pressure on government if their memorandum is ignored.

"One position we will take is to mobilise the community in Mpumalanga and other mining industries to go for a total shutdown of mining operations. It might be at Koornfontein, but we understand that this can easily occur anywhere else," Mathavha said.

Under Gupta ownership, Tegeta Resources and Energy and the Optimum colliery found themselves in a quandary when the company could not honour its end of a coal supply deal with state-owned power utility Eskom.

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