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The Optimum wars: What's at stake in the battle over mini-pit mining

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A pit being mined at the Optimum Coal Mine in December 2022.
A pit being mined at the Optimum Coal Mine in December 2022.
Bianke Neethling/News24

Optimum's business rescue practitioners have hit back at intense criticism of their management of the distressed coal mine - which includes allowing contract miners to extract coal from the mine – as they insist they have only ever focused on "doing what is best for the asset and its affected persons".

But these affected parties and sources close to the mine's activities, however, remain deeply concerned about the mini-pit mining, describing the activity as "atrocious" and damaging to the long-term viability of the mine.

The contract mining at the formerly Gupta-owned mine was red-flagged by the court-appointed curator of the Optimum Coal Mine (OCM). In his quarterly reports, Peter van den Steen said the activities are delivering relatively little financial benefit to Optimum itself, while generating billions in revenues for the contractors. The contract mining is also risking the long-term economic viability of the mine, he said.

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