An Optimum Coal colliery. Picture: FINANCIAL MAIL
An Optimum Coal colliery. Picture: FINANCIAL MAIL

Hundreds of members of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) marched on Wednesday at the Optimum Coal mine, owned by the controversial Gupta family, to express their concerns about its viability.

SA’s main commercial banks have cut ties with the Guptas, citing reputational risk.

The National Prosecuting Authority declared Ajay Gupta, one of the three Gupta brothers accused of corrupt links to former president Jacob Zuma, a "fugitive from justice" last week.

The Guptas and Zuma have consistently denied any wrongdoing.

In addition, India’s Bank of Baroda, which counts the family’s operations as clients, has pulled the plug on its South African business.

"Our members are concerned they might not get paid this Friday because the Bank of Baroda was handling their payments," said NUM spokesman Livhuwani Mammburu.

Mammburu said NUM members at the coal mine, which supplies power utility Eskom, were also anxious about the future of the Mpumalanga mine and were wondering whether it had been sold.

Business Day reported this week that the mine could be shut down over its failure to operate a community water desalination plant, which is a requirement for its mining licence.

Work at the mine came to a standstill as workers marched to hand over a memorandum of grievances to CEO George van der Merwe.

Mammburu said the union’s members wanted answers on the future of the mine because of reports that the mine’s owners‚ the Gupta family‚ could no longer be found.

He said the workers also wanted to be assured about the future of the mine and whether it would be sold.

"They also want to know whether they will be … paid this upcoming Friday as the Bank of Baroda‚ which handled their payments‚ is about to close its operations in SA."

He said the workers could not hand over the memorandum because Van der Merwe was said to be in Johannesburg.

"There is no work here.

"The workers will come back tomorrow to hand over the memorandum.

"There is a total shutdown of the operation‚" he said.

With Reuters