Communities dread third bleak festive season as mine sale halted again

The affected communities near Koornfontein coal mine in Mpumalanga are up in arms after a recent attempt to sell off the mine for the second time in three years was delayed because of a court challenge. Picture: Ciaran Ryan
The affected communities near Koornfontein coal mine in Mpumalanga are up in arms after a recent attempt to sell off the mine for the second time in three years was delayed because of a court challenge. Picture: Ciaran Ryan

The affected communities near Koornfontein coal mine in Mpumalanga are up in arms after a recent attempt to sell off the mine for the second time in three years was delayed because of a court challenge.

Some community members, under two civic organisations, arrived in buses to protest outside the Johannesburg High Court earlier in the week when the case, which is stalling the sale of the mine, was heard.

Koornfontein is one of two former Gupta-owned mines put under business rescue. After a lengthy process, Lurco, a South African integrated resources business, was announced as the successful bidder but was given a fixed period to get the money into the country, an obligation it failed to adhere to.

The mine was then offered to Makole Group’s Black Royalty Minerals (BRM).

Lurco is now dragging the business rescue practitioners to court to set aside the sale to BRM and has been joined by Oakbay and Wesdawn on the matter. Judgment was reserved.

Lurco, whose initial urgent application failed, previously emphasised that it did not fail to raise the money, arguing that it only failed to bring the money into the country on time.

Vusi Skosana, a representative Middelburg Business and Unemployment Community Forum and Mhluzi Unemployment Structure, told City Press on the sidelines of the protest march that the communities don’t really care who buys the mine, only wanting it to be operational as soon as possible because they have been heavily impacted by the lack of operations.

“Any company that can buy this now must buy it because this is the third Christmas without jobs. Every time there is a winning bidder they take the matter to court. The first time Project Halo won and was taken to court and now it’s BRM. It’s the same companies that are always challenging. We are tired and we are hungry. We want our jobs,” he said.

Skosana said he suspected that Lurco didn’t have the money and was deploying delaying tactics, while BRM has the money available to take over immediately and ensure another bleak festive season is avoided.

He said a total 3 500 employees were laid off by both Koornfontein and Optimum, with the bulk of the number from the larger Optimum mine.

According to a media statement issued by Lurco, the company denies any association and/or collusion with the Guptas and Oakbay.

“As a result of this process, it has come to our attention that an unsubstantiated and erroneous rumour/inference has surfaced that Lurco has an association and/or relationship with Oakbay or the Guptas.

“This is completely unsubstantiated and untrue. Lurco has not elicited or exchanged any communication with any of the above-mentioned applicants, nor does it plan to do so now or at any time in the future,” Ellington Nxumalo, chief executive of Lurco said.

Lurco is also in the running to purchase Optimum and, according to business rescue practitioner Louis Klopper, who is part of the team selling off both Koornfontein and Optimum, the process should be wrapped up before the end of this year.


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