JOHANNESBURG – Two years ago, just more than 1 300 workers in KwaZulu-Natal were about to lose their jobs. Their families were more likely going to face hardship. In a province where unemployment and poverty are huge challenges, as they are nationally, one job lost would be one too many.
The workers who faced this gloomy future were directly employed by the Zululand Anthracite Colliery (Zac) and the companies contracted to the mine. Not only were the future of the mineworkers looking bleak, the future of the mine itself was hanging in the balance.
Owner of the mine, Rio Tinto, a multinational conglomerate, no longer saw a need to continue with the loss-making operations. The mine was, in Rio Tinto’s perspective, ripe for sale. It had fallen off their radar of priories.
I and my fellow business partners at Menar Capital, a mining investment company, saw an opportunity in Zac. We considered the uniqueness of the mine located in an economically strategic region of Zululand. We also considered the uniqueness of the mineral resource: no known mine in South Africa produces low ash anthracite coal.
We bought the mine from Rio in August 2016. Our plan was to grow the businesses and contribute to the country’s socio-economic priorities from the local economy’s perspective. Our strategy was different to acquisitive approaches pursued by asset strippers who pretend to be good investors when, in truth, their aim is to asset-strip a company and sell it. Usually, such strategies leave employees and communities in the cold.