Ajay and Atul Gupta Photo: Independent Media
JOHANNESBURG - Workers at the Gupta-owned Optimum coal mine in Mpumalanga, this week downed tools, demanding answers from management over the mine’s future, as its shareholders are on the run.

Chief Operating Officer at Optimum, George van der Merwe today spoke with the workers at the mine telling them that legal courses are in motion to keep the bank accounts open.

According to van der Merwe, the Gupta-owned mine has filed papers to force the departing Bank of Baroda to continue doing business with the firm.

The mine supplies coal to Eskom, in a live interview with eNCA on Wednesday, Eskom spokesperson Khulu Phasiwe said the mine, "only'' supplied the power utility with about 5% of its total coal supply, at R150 per ton.

Phasiwe said he was unaware of reports that the mine had already been sold, saying, "we are not aware of the mine being sold but if that is the case then in terms of the law the owners of the mine have to tell the Department of Mineral Resources who the new owners are."

Phasiwe says Optimum mine is still contracted to supply Eskom with coal and should that cease to happen, "there would be consequences''.

About two thousand workers downed tools on Wednesday according to eNCA. The workers are asking for clarity on the future of the company, particularly whether it will be sold. They are demanding to know whether they will be paid on Friday.

It has been reported that the company may not have money to pay their workers.