RBCT agrees to export terms with Optimum Coal owner

RICHARDS Bay Coal Terminal (RBCT) said it had agreed export…

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RICHARDS Bay Coal Terminal (RBCT) said it had agreed export terms with Optimum Coal, the Mpumalanga province operation which was once owned by the Gupta family.

“Absent anything unforeseen arising, the parties expect the first coal to be railed to the RBCT terminal in early April 2024,” the terminal said in a joint statement with Liberty Coal, the privately-held firm which operates Optimum Coal.

A separate rail agreement has still to be signed with Transnet, said Liberty Coal. In a February article by News24, Templar Capital, which owns Liberty Coal, said it would pay the Criminal Asset Recovery Fund R461m to take control of Optimum in order it exit business rescue proceedings.

“RBCT looks forward to the revitalisation of the Optimum Coal Mine and its restoration by Liberty Coal and its shareholders as a significant and sustainable contributor to employment opportunities and economic activity within the greater Steve Tshwete municipal region and to the South African fiscus,” said RBCT in a statement.

Liberty Coal and RBCT crossed swords last week when it was claimed Optimum Coal was being unfairly treated. According to reports RBCT was allegedly demanding additional conditions be met by Liberty Coal fearing Optimum Coal was not sufficiently capitalised by shareholders to meet operating expenses.

Today’s agreement paves the way for the resumption of Optimum Coal after years of lying fallow. As such selling export coal will save about 500 jobs in Mpumalanga.

Optimum Coal was acquired by the Gupta family’s Tegeta Resources back in 2016. The National Prosecuting Agency (NPA) contended the acquisition was financed through theft and other fraudulent means, with cash stolen from Transnet and Eskom, among others.

The prosecuting agency also argued Templar Capital CEO Daniel McGowan was intimately involved and a key member of the money laundering scheme allegedly run by the Guptas. As such, he couldn’t claim he was an innocent creditor who did not know of the criminality allegedly perpetrated by the Gupta family and those who assisted them in the acquisition of what became their largest coal supplier to Eskom, and a money laundering vehicle.

The NPA has since dropped the claim, which the National Union of Mineworkers called a “final nail in the coffin of the employees who suffered at the hands of the Gupta family’s shenanigans”.

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