Minister of Public Enterprises Pravin Gordhan at a news conference to announce Eskom’s full-year results at its headquarters in Johannesburg on Tuesday. Eskom reported a record loss of R20.7 billion. Photo: Bloomberg
JOHANNESBURG – The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) plans to urge Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan to fast-track the sale of Gupta-linked Optimum and Koornfontein mines.

NUM president Joseph Montisetse said yesterday that the union, together with the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu), was scheduled to meet Gordhan next week to put pressure on the Eskom board to lead the sale to finality.

State-owned electricity producer Eskom is Optimum's biggest creditor, having submitted claims of R5.1 billion to the mines.

“We're hoping that the bidders of the two mines will be given the go-ahead to run with the mine. The meeting is important to unlock the process. Our members and former mine workers are suffering while unemployment has rocketed,” said Montisetse.

Montisetse said the union would also use the meeting to call on Gordhan to address the crisis at Eskom after it announced a record R20.7bn loss in the year to March 2019 from R2.3bn in the previous year.

The NUM previously said it had pinned its hopes on the state-owned African Exploration Mining Finance Corporation acquiring Optimum.

Business rescue practitioners said that they had appointed GoIndustry DoveBid and Park Village Auction to facilitate the sales process for the assets, which had left thousands jobless after going bust at the height of state capture.

John Taylor of GoIndustry DoveBid said the group was in the process of scrutinising eight bidders.

Taylor said they were seeking clarity from the bidders on their offers and would continue to engage with them until the qualifying offers were identified and presented to the creditors.

“Once qualifying offers have been identified they, together with representatives of the major creditors, will engage with those offers to agree on commercial terms to present to the companies’ body of creditors to vote on in the form of a business rescue plan,” said Taylor.

Optimum Coal Mine had a contract to supply Eskom with coal from 2015 until 2018. It went under following mine management failure to invest in the assets, which was exacerbated in 2017 when banks cancelled transactional banking facilities amid allegations of state capture.

Marius Klopper, who was appointed as the business rescue practitioner in 2018, previously said that the successful bidder would have to negotiate a coal supply agreement with Eskom and also meet the terms and conditions set by the business rescue practitioners.

Klopper said the assets had a lot to offer with the Optimum Coal mine’s operations able to extend beyond 2030. Optimum’s Coal Terminal, a shareholder within the Richards Bay Coal Terminal, had a 6.5-million-ton annual coal export entitlement, while the Koornfontein Mines in Mpumalanga, a shareholder within the Richards Bay Coal Terminal, included a 1.5-million-ton annual coal export entitlement.