THREE Lily mineworkers were trapped underground in 2016. Supplied
JOHANNESBURG - Australia's Vantage Goldfields (VGSA), the company whose assets include the Lily and Barbrook mines in Mpumalanga, has embarked on talks with new potential buyers to take over the operations, after cancelling an agreement with previous bidders for allegedly failing to produce the required funds.

Chief executive Mike McChesney said the talks with potential investors began almost a month ago and a deal was imminent.

He said the talks would result in the reopening of the mines, which were placed under business rescue following the entrapment of three Lily mineworkers in an underground container in 2016. More than 1000 employees were also expected to be employed in the mines.

“The transaction is in the process of being finalised, so that the mines can be reopened as soon as possible," McChesney said, adding that the talks were confidential.

In March, Vantage canned an agreement with Flaming Silver Trading, whose subsidiary Siyakhula Sonke Empowerment Corporation (SSC) allegedly failed to raise the funds required to reopen the mines and pay outstanding creditors, despite having had more than 16 months to do so.

McCheney said VGSA retained ownership of the shares, the mines and the assets and at no stage did it part with such ownership.

“VGSA did not and will not part with ownership, unless and until a suitable successor has demonstrated the ability to assume the obligations of ownership and the responsibility that goes with being the owner of a mine, including the ability to apply the necessary funds to open the mines and conduct a sustainable business and the associated job creation,” he said.

VGSA and Flaming Silver signed an agreement in November 2017 to complete the business rescue process and re-open the mines. Among the requirements were the necessary funding of R310million and government approval to transfer the mining rights which Flaming Silver received last December.

Flaming Silver Trading has taken legal action to prevent a new deal and to compel VGSA to meet its obligations on the sale of shares agreement and share certificates.

SCC chief executive Fred Arendse said yesterday that he would approach the court to stop VGSA’s talks with the new bidders. Arendse also said Flaming Silver had the funding in place and had provided VGSA with proof of funds, including bank statements.

“We will interdict any transaction McChesney wants to enter into.

“Our matter is sub judice and we are not allowed to talk about our deals. We also suspect they want to enter into other deals to get more money, hence they are trying to collapse our deal. We will take this matter to the highest court,” said Arendse.

McChesney said VGSA would not deliver share certificates to Flaming Silver.

“VGSA stands by its position that the claim of transfer is spurious and that the agreement with Flaming Silver has been cancelled and that Flaming Silver has no right to demand the shares without the money.”