Ramaphosa’s promise to help resolve Optimum mine crisis welcomed

Workers have downed tools at the Hendrina-based operation as they fight to get paid, with the NUM threatening further unrest.

Protesters at the Optimum coal mine entrance in Mpumalanga. Picture: Pelane Phakgadi/EWN

JOHANNESBURG - Parliament’s Committee on Mineral Resources has welcomed President Cyril Ramaphosa's promise to help resolve the crisis at the Optimum coal mine in Mpumalanga.

The committee has also called on the Department of Mineral Resources to intervene swiftly and establish with certainty the future of the Gupta-owned mine.

Workers have downed tools at the Hendrina-based operation as they fight to get paid, with the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) threatening further unrest.

Disgruntled workers, whose protest resumed on Friday morning, have now retreated and have agreed to negotiations with mine management to continue into the weekend.

The NUM says management has not been able to confirm if Optimum coal has been placed under business rescue, and who the caretaker is.

Branch chairperson Goodwill Mthombeni said: “We’re waiting for the business rescue practitioner to contact us and we intend to have a teleconference with him to find out who appointed him.”

At the same time, the committee has called for swift intervention and a resolution to the matter to ensure that workers are paid.

Protesters have now dispersed.

WORKERS WANT MINISTER ZWANE

Striking employees have demanded that Mineral Resources Minister Mosebenzi Zwane address them on Monday.

Workers have not been paid as it's understood the mine is facing either business rescue or liquidation.

The Bank of Baroda, through which Optimum pays its employees, has pulled out of South Africa.

The mine has not been able to give clarity on the way forward as it has been transacting with the Bank of Baroda.

The NUM says business rescue or not, the mine should have answers about salaries.

Mthombeni said: “We’re going to intensify our action so that everyone won’t get access.”

Meanwhile, workers have vowed to protest again on Monday.

(Edited by Zamangwane Shange)