CAPE TOWN, February 24 – Parliament’s mineral resources portfolio committee has expressed grave concern at the latest developments at the Gupta-owned Optimum coal mine in Mpumalanga, where the company failed to pay workers this month.
Workers have reportedly gone on strike to demand their salaries and were also demanding answers about the future of the mine, reportedly being placed under business rescue.
The committee had received a letter from the National Union of Mine Workers (NUM) requesting its intervention in the ongoing impasse, committee chairman Sahlulele Luzipo said on Saturday.
The situation at the Optimum mine was reminiscent of the events that occurred leading up to the Aurora mine disaster. There, workers were not paid for several months before the mine was shut down and its assets stripped by the owners, he said.
“It cannot be allowed under this government dispensation that workers are made to bear the brunt while the owners walk away unscathed,” Luzipo said.
The committee was not convinced by explanations given to the workers by Optimum mine CEO George van der Merwe about the sale of the mine to new owners.
“We call on the department of mineral resources to intervene swiftly and establish with certainty the future of the mine. It should also assist in ensuring that workers are paid,” he said.
Luzipo welcomed the commitment by President Cyril Ramaphosa that he would intervene where there were looming job losses to find a lasting solution to avoid job losses.
According to media reports, optimum failed to pay workers, citing banking problems after the Bank of Baroda announced it was ceasing to do business in South Africa.
– African News Agency (ANA)