February 21, 2018 / 12:09 PM / a month ago

South Africa's NUM union marches on Gupta-owned Optimum Coal mine

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - 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 the operation’s viability.

An entrance to the Optimum Kwagga coal mine owned by Glencore is seen near Hendrina in Mpumalanga province, September 8 2015.REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

South Africa’s chief prosecutor declared Ajay Gupta, one of the three Gupta brothers accused of corrupt links to former president Jacob Zuma, a “fugitive from justice” last week while 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 that they might not get paid this Friday because the Bank of Baroda was handling their payments,” said NUM spokesman Livhuwani Mammburu.

South Africa’s main commercial banks have cut all ties with the Guptas, citing reputational risk. Zuma and the Guptas have consistently denied any wrong-doing.

Mammburu said NUM members at the coal mine east of Johannesburg, which supplies state-run power utility Eskom, were also anxious about the future of the mine and were wondering if it had been sold or not.

The Business Day newspaper 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. South African mining companies are required to meet social and labour obligations to maintain their permits.

Reporting by Ed Stoddard; Editing by James Macharia

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