Four hundred families could lose everything at Gupta mine
New business rescue practitioners are foraging for funds to settle Shiva Uranium's outstanding wages and other expenses
Hopes are fading fast for 400 mine workers at the Gupta-owned mining company Shiva Uranium.
Work at the mine has been halted since June and last week workers did not get paid.
New business rescue practitioners, appointed after the previous ones quit in May, are foraging for funds to settle outstanding wages and other expenses.
For workers, the unpaid salaries are not their only concern. There are fears that workers at two operations in Hartbeesfontein near Klerksdorp in the North West and Brakfontein in Mpumalanga are on the verge of losing their jobs and their livelihood.Some workers at Hartbeesfontein who spoke to Times Select said they were under the impression that the Industrial Development Corporation was going to settle their salaries. The corporation loaned Gupta-owned Oakbay Resources and Energy R250m to buy Shiva and later became shareholders in the mining company.
Shiva Uranium was placed under the care of business rescue practitioners (BRPs) earlier this year.
Times Select has seen an SMS sent to workers on July 31 which read: “The business rescue practitioners are engaged in urgent discussions with the IDC regarding funding to pay the salaries and other critical service providers. We are currently not in a position to provide more information but we can assure you that we are doing everything possible to facilitate this process and bring it to a speedy resolution.”
The IDC told Times Select they had never committed to paying any salaries but confirmed there had been a request for financial assistance.“While we are concerned to learn of the non-payment of worker’s salaries at the two mines, we wish to place it on record that IDC has never made any undertaking to take care of worker’s salaries at Shiva or any Oakbay-related mines. In view of the challenges facing the two mines, the IDC has been formally requested to help alleviate the financial difficulty facing Shiva (and), as with any other requests that comes before the IDC, this is being given due consideration,” said the corporation’s spokesperson Zama Luthuli.
For the workers, hope that they will be able to hold on to their jobs is fast fading. Many are unable to pay bills and provide for their families.
“I am here at home, living in hopelessness and don’t know what to say to my family. I became worried when suddenly we were stopped from doing any work and only coming to work to sign the register and bask in the sun in recent months,” said one mineworker from Hartbeesfontein.“Then suddenly when we were still inquiring on our outstanding salaries we were told last week to go home and wait for payments and we’ll know thereafter what’s going on. We all went home with heavy hearts and to this day we don’t know what to expect … could this be our last days of employment?”
National Union of Mineworkers education secretary in Matlosana region Masibulele Naki said workers had not been getting their salaries on time in recent months.“They have been suffering since the takeover by business rescue practitioners. They have also been coming to work just to sign the register and go back home without doing any work,” Naki said.
Newly appointed BRPs Christopher Monyela and Murray Cloete declined to comment on unpaid salaries.
A notice posted by Monyela and Murray on June 14 says operations have been put on hold.
“The business rescue practitioners have, after consulting with a number of affected persons, decided to discontinue the mining operation in its totality at the Hartbeesfontein Gold/Uranium Mine in Klerksdorp. The mine will be placed in a state of care and maintenance and only the essential services will be maintained,” the notice read.“This position will be maintained until a firm decision is taken in regard to the sale of the underlying assets of the company in business rescue.”
For the workers, the future looks bleak. “We have seen this happen to many miners before where it all started with non-payment of salaries and they later got told the company was not profitable and when sold the new owners decide to show them the door. Ours is to pray that the company is saved from total collapse and our jobs are saved,” a Shiva employee said.