23/02/2018 16:40 SAST | Updated 23/02/2018 17:17 SAST

Parliament Fears Aurora Repeat In Gupta-Owned Mine Strike

The striking workers at Optimum coal mine demand to know the "truth of the sale" of the mine, and want a guarantee that they will be paid.

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Parliament's portfolio committee on mineral resources has called on the mineral resources department to intervene at Gupta-owned Optimum coal mine in Mpumalanga.

Chairperson of the committee Sahlulele Luzipo said the department should gain some certainty on the future of the mine.

"It should also assist in ensuring that workers are paid," Luzipo said.

Workers downed tools on Wednesday morning, saying there was uncertainty over their jobs and the future of the mine.

The striking workers demanded to know the "truth of the sale" of the mine.

The committee said it received a letter from the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) requesting its intervention in the ongoing impasse.

Luzipo said the situation at Optimum was "reminiscent" of the events that led up to the Aurora mine disaster.

In 2011, that company was liquidated and miners were not paid their salaries for five years.

Employees and contractors of the Optimum coal mine in Hendrina, owned by the controversial Gupta family, demonstrate with a placard reading 'Guptas - stop gambling with our lives' in front of the gates of the mine on February 22, 2018. Workers are on strike because of the Bank of Baroda withdrawing services in South Africa and reduced the operations to a standstill as they marched to hand over a memorandum to the company's COO. / AFP

"There, workers were not paid for several months before the mine was shut down and its assets stripped by owners," Luzipo said.

"It cannot be allowed under this government dispensation, that workers are made to bear the brunt, while the owners walk away unscathed.

He said they were not convinced by explanations given to the workers by Optimum COO George van der Merwe.

In a memorandum handed to Van der Merwe, workers demanded to know if they would be paid and asked to be informed of plans to pay outstanding debt to creditors.

Van der Merwe told workers on Thursday that legal processes were under way to keep bank accounts open.