THE Phakamisa Coal Consortium was “surprised” by a decision to award the purchase of Optimum Coal Mine out of business rescue to ‘Project Halo’ – an unknown entity backed by Australian bank, Macquarie.
“We had been led to believe we were the only compliant bid by the Business Rescue Practitioner’s (BPRs) deadline of November 23, so naturally we are disappointed,” said Bernard Swanepoel, the founder of To The Point Growth Specialists which is one of Phakamisa Consortium’s shareholders.
The consortium was formed to resuscitate the coal mine wracked by neglect and corruption, it said in a statement today. It comprised seasoned mining executives with considerable experience turning around troubled assets, it added.
“The acquisition was to have provided a platform for a new, black South African coal mining champion to become an industry consolidator,” said Swanepoel.
“By embracing good governance and both the spirit of transformation and compliance with the law laid out in Mining Charter III, we were quite confident that Optimum would have soon shed its legacy issues, delivering to funders, shareholders and the communities where it operates,” he said, adding he wished the winning bidder “well” in its efforts.
Kurt Knoop, one of the BPRs for Optimum Coal Mine, told Miningmx by text message yesterday (December 6) that no award for control of Optimum Coal Mine had been made.
Bidders were also asked to take on Koornfontein and a 7% share of export entitlement through Richards Bay Coal Terminal. The two mines, as well as a third owned by the Gupta family – Vlakfontein – have failed to deliver any coal to Eskom for most of this year which is now enforcing load-shedding, partly owing to low coal inventories at its power stations.
Meanwhile, employees at Optimum Coal Mine have been protesting as they face a third successive month of no pay. “December will be the third month with no pay for these workers and the consequences of this extend far beyond barren Christmas dinner table and a silent new year spent indoors,” said Natasha Mazzone, a DA leader in November.
“It is of the utmost importance that these rich fat cats are brought to book – they have been earning money while workers who have done their jobs diligently have not been paid,” she said, making a reference to the Gupta family.
Swanepoel told Miningmx in October that in order to recapitalise Optimum Coal Mine, approximately R1bn to R2bn would be needed.
The Phakamisa Consortium had joined forces with Trafigura, a commodity trader, to bid for Optimum Coal Mine. At the time of that interview with Swanepoel, only one other party – Vitol in joint venture with Bergh Group – was thought to have placed a competing bid. Bids have to include an underpin of a R250m guarantee.