Ramatlhodi, Glencore in urgent talks on licence issue

Glencore's Optimum Coal, whose licence has been suspended, supplies coal to power utility Eskom.

FILE: Minister of Mineral Resources Ngoako Ramatlhodi. Picture: AFP.

JOHANNESBURG - Mineral Resources Minister Ngoako Ramatlhodi says he's been in urgent talks with Glencore Optimum Coal in a bid to resolve the suspension of its licence following retrenchment notices and its ongoing dispute with Eskom.

Optimum Coal supplies the parastatal with coal but this week it applied for business rescue because it's been selling the fossil fuel at below cost price.

It says this is also one of the main reasons it has to shed around 500 jobs.

Ramatlhodi says his department suspended Optimum's licence because it did not conduct retrenchments properly.

But he says it has set conditions for the company to meet in order to regain its operating licence.

"We are looking at alternatives to retrenchments. Glencore has other operations elsewhere and they should be look at shifting the possible retrenched workers. We must look at voluntary retrenchments and rehabilitation to absorb some miners."

Ramatlhodi says he's already been in touch with his public enterprises counterpart to avoid the permanent closure of the Glencore mine.

He also plans to meet with Eskom in a bid to find a reasonable way to deal with Optimum Coal which will avoid closure.

"The meetings we've convened include Eskom and [the Department of Trade and Industry] DTI so that we can hopefully save that mine."

Ramatlhodi says 10 other mining companies are also facing possible suspension because they're operating without water licences.

"Some of the applications have been in for about two years. We'll be opening up discussions with the ministry in order to remedy that situation."

The minister says mines that rely on Eskom for power will raise all their concerns during a two-day meeting in Pretoria which will hopefully prevent further mass job cuts.

Meanwhile, the DA has accused Ramatlhodi of "panicking" over job losses in the mining industry.

The party's James Lorimer says this is the only conclusion that can be drawn from the decision to withdraw Optimum Colliery's mining licence.

"The minister is panicking and this is only going to make things worse, because as much as he tries to strong arm business, soon he will realise that there is no more business to strong arm."

Government plans to hold a mining indaba in October for frank behind-closed-doors discussions with the industry.

Lorimer believes this is long overdue and would be a better route to follow than threatening mining companies with losing their licences if they cut jobs.