Aurora lied to Parliament, says union

Aurora Empowerment Systems lied to a Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Mineral Resources about paying 80% of mineworkers at Orkney, the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) said today.

“The NUM is outraged by the pathetic lies told to the Portfolio Committee by Aurora that it has paid 80% of the workers at Orkney whilst it has not done so,” NUM spokesman Lesiba Seshoka said in a statement.

Yesterday, Aurora’s commercial director Thulani Ngubane told the committee that all NUM-affiliated workers at Aurora’s Grootvlei mine and more than 80% of those at its Orkney mine had been paid.

He said all payments had to be done via the labour department, and that this had caused a delay. The department needed to check the authenticity of claimants before the money could be paid.

Aurora director Zondwa Mandela told the committee that illegal miners, acid mine drainage, and the termination of a water pumping subsidy were some of the reasons why the company faced cash flow problems.

He also blamed the NUM and Solidarity for the company’s current state.

However, NUM Matlosana secretary Joe Montisetsi accused Aurora of speaking nothing but “recycled untruths”.

Seshoka said the NUM was “highly disturbed” by the “monotonous irresponsible utterances” made by Aurora.

He called on the department of labour to continue with its efforts to assist the workers at the mines and ensure they were paid.

The labour department’s acting director general Sam Morotoba said yesterday that the department intervened after the Springs and Klerksdorp labour centres received complaints from employees in 2009.

At the Orkney mine, 1 170 employees were owed about R8.65 million.

In December last year, Aurora paid about a quarter of the money owed to staff. Morotoba said the department would serve Aurora with papers to settle by no later than April 18.

“The NUM is pleased by news of a successful application by the department to obtain another compliance order which will this time around force the beleaguered Aurora company to eventually pay the workers at Orkney,” said Seshoka.

Last year, Aurora announced it had secured enough funding to buy Pamodzi’s Grootvlei (Springs) and Orkney mines, which at that stage employed 5 000 workers, from its liquidators.

However, operations ground to a halt and miners went unpaid amid red tape and empty promises.

The politically connected Aurora – whose directors include former president Nelson Mandela’s grandson Zondwa, and President Jacob Zuma’s nephew Khulubuse – has been given until August by the High Court in Pretoria to obtain financing for the mines.

One of the liquidators, Enver Motala, said that China’s Shandong Gold Mining Company had expressed “serious interest” in funding Aurora, to enable it to acquire the assets of Pamodzi Gold.

Shandong had made available $100 million (R685 million) to ensure there were sufficient funds to commit to the transaction.

A delegation would arrive in the next two weeks to complete outstanding queries and due diligence and then consummate the deal.

Motala said that, if for some reason, Shandong could not give a firm commitment by May 31 that its shareholders and the State Council in China had approved the deal, the liquidators would consider cancelling the interim trading and contract mining agreement with Aurora.

“And this gives us time til 16 August to break up the assets or find another buyer,” Motala said.

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