Suitors line up to buy Kopanang

Johannesburg - AngloGold Ashanti has at least three parties interested in buying its Kopanang mine near Klerksdorp in North West.

It is one of two operations the company plans to shut down.

The company has made all prospective buyers sign nondisclosure agreements that restrict them from talking about their respective bids.

However, according to information obtained by City Press from at least four well-placed sources who are privy to the matter, one of the bidders is a 100% black-owned consortium.

The consortium, which has registered a company called Kopanang Shaft 9 with the Companies and Intellectual Property Commission, is led by local mining engineer Lebo Ramorule and Kopanang mine manager Stephen Manyathela.

Kopanang Shaft 9 is reportedly preparing a bid of more than R330 million.

AngloGold needs slightly less than that to settle all the retrenchment packages for the mine workers.

The consortium is planning to bid as a management takeover, with Ramorule as the only outsider.

The consortium will include an 8% stake each for a community trust and an employee scheme.

According to a Companies and Intellectual Property Commission report, the company Kopanang Shaft 9 was only registered on Tuesday, and only has Ramorule and Manyathela as directors.

Ramorule declined to comment after a list of questions was sent to him.

The second prospective buyer of the 4 000-worker strong Kopanang mine is another consortium said to be led by the Chinese owners of another mine in the area, Tau Lekoa Gold Mine in Orkney, of which Owen O’Brien is the CEO.

O’Brien said he could not comment on the matter.

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The Tau Lekoa consortium is said to have strong financial backing and should not have a problem meeting whatever price AngloGold demands, unlike its fellow black bidders.

The third buyer in the hat is Harmony Gold, which has reportedly been eyeing AngloGold’s local assets for a long time.

Mining magnate Patrice Motsepe is nonexecutive chair of Harmony.

Harmony spokeswoman Lauren Fourie said the company does not comment on speculation.

City Press has also seen documents that AngloGold sent to prospective buyers in which it set a deadline for a formal offer proposal to be submitted, which is a week before the 60-day retrenchment deadline.

The documents also give buyers access to and permission for information they may need for their respective proposals.

According to the documents, which form part of the confidential nondisclosure agreement, the bidders are supposed to pay whatever amount agreed upon wholly upfront.

According to a source, the conditions are designed in such a way that the 100% black-owned consortium will come up short because the capital needed for such a transaction, which is said to be several hundred million rand, would have to be sourced via an application from either a financial institution or government.

The document states that AngloGold needs “100% cash upfront”.

It also lists the assets that will be sold, which exclude the Kopanang gold plant and the marginal ore rock dump, and outlines that the main assets included in the transaction would essentially be the Kopanang mine, Kopanang residences and the west gold plant.

The bidders are also expected to submit a detailed business plan with information relating to the envisaged life of the mine.

The document, signed by AngloGold executive vice-president for strategy and business development, Charles Carter, reads: “AngloGold Ashanti’s preference is to conclude an agreement as soon as possible, and any such due diligence will be required to be undertaken in parallel with the negotiation of the sale agreements so as to not further delay the announcement and implementation of the proposed transaction.”

AngloGold spokesperson Chris Nthite also declined to speak about the sale.

“We don’t comment on any corporate activity until we have something that can be reported to the whole market,” Nthite said.

AngloGold announced in June that it would be retrenching 8 500 workers at two operations – 4 000 workers from Kopanang and 4 500 from Tau Tona – and would shut the mines, which was a move that raised eyebrows as the company has so far not shut down a mine in the country, but had instead opted to sell ageing mines.

READ: NUM lashes out at jobs 'blackmail' of mining firms

Meanwhile, the company has not suspended its retrenchment process and, on Tuesday, started with its stakeholder meeting facilitated by the department of mineral resources.

According to two independent sources who attended the meeting, the forum, which discussed the socioeconomic and labour implications of the retrenchments, left a bitter taste in the mouths of some of the stakeholders as the company was accused of bombarding them with technical reports.

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