March 8, 2018 / 4:49 PM / 3 months ago

South Africa's mines minister urges speedy resolution on Optimum mine

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - South Africa’s new mining minister Gwede Mantashe said on Thursday the business rescue process being undertaken at the troubled Optimum coal mine had to be done with “speed”, but the operation was working again after some employees were paid.

FILE PHOTO: Gwede Mantashe gestures during a media briefing at Luthuli house, the ANC headquarters in Johannesburg, South Africa, May 29, 2017. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

The Optimum coal mine, which has faced a strike by its workers over unpaid salaries, sought protection from creditors on Feb. 20 with seven other companies owned by the Gupta family, who are accused of corrupt ties to former President Jacob Zuma.

Zuma and the Gupta brothers deny any wrongdoing.

Speaking to 702 Talk Radio, Mantashe said he had met with the business rescue practitioners and they were turning the operation around as well as three other Gupta-owned mines that had liquidity problems.

“They’ve paid the workers, they’ve paid the creditors, the mines are operational again,” he said.

A source at the National Union of Mineworkers told Reuters that permanent employees had been paid at the mine but contractors had not yet been paid.

South Africa’s Exxaro Resources Ltd said on Thursday it was interested in acquiring Optimum’s coal export quotas but was not keen on the mining assets.

Reporting by Tanisha Heiberg and Ed Stoddard; Editing by Mark Potter

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