Project Halo — the consortium which came out as the preferred bidder in the highly contested purchase of coal mine previously owned by the Gupta family — on Tuesday rejected allegations of impropriety in the way it secured the bid to acquire mine and other related assets.
Last year, Project Halo won a bid to buy Optimum Coal Mine, Koornfontein Mine, and Optimum Coal Terminal in Mpumalanga for R3.6 billion from Tegeta Exploration and Resources, a mining company which is linked to the controversial Gupta family.
The mines have not been operating at full functionality as Tegeta was put on business rescue while litigation proceeded as Swiss-based company Charles King SA was seeking an interdict to stop business rescue practitioners from selling the assets.
Paul Buckley, director of Project Halo, said they had won the bid to purchase the Gupta mines fair and square
“Let it be stated clearly that we won the bid fair and square, based on our sound business proposal which was assessed by the business rescue practitioners as the best plan presented to them,” Buckley said.
The consortium declared its expression of interest in the mine in March 2018, putting down a deposit of R250 million, as per business rescue practitioners procedure, towards the end of 2018. Project Halo tagged its bid at R3 billion based on what it believed the company was worth.
“We are focused on going through the final stage of the process with the creditors and then immediately hit the ground running, paying particular attention to the workers,” Buckley said.
“Our sympathies lie with the workers at the mines, who have not been paid for some time. As soon as we take over the mine, and production resumes, we hope to address the workers’ plight.”
Over 2,000 workers at the troubled Optimum and Koornfontein Colliery have not been paid their salaries for the past three months, laying the blame on the business rescue practitioners overseeing the operations.
They are expected to march to the Union Buildings in Pretoria on Wednesday, demanding that government assist in getting the operations at the mines to full functionality after the Gupta family lost ownership and operating rights of the mines.
Buckley also distanced Project Halo from allegations that it was linked to the Gupta family.
“The reality is that the assets under bid used to be part of the Tegeta Group, controlled by the Guptas. The assets were put into business rescue by the Gupta family after its access to cash dried up following the withdrawal from South Africa of the only bank that would still offer banking facilities, India’s Bank of Baroda,” Buckley said.
Going forward, Buckley said the consortium’s priorities were restoring mining operations back to normal, addressing concerns and issues with clients, who include Eskom, getting the workers to keep their jobs, provide backpay and generally get their morale back again, and also enhancing health and safety standards.
The consortium also wants to push production to competitive levels again and settle outstanding balances with creditors. Buckley said the consortium enjoys the backing of a reputable A-rated bank with vast experience in mining.
“We are a business that is socially and environmentally responsible and through our actions, we’re striving to create a better future for our communities,” he said.
– African News Agency (ANA)