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Gupta-owned Optimum has R1.5bn in rehabilitation fund - Zwane

Jun 08 2017 20:28
Liesl Peyper

Cape Town – Mineral Resources Minister Mosebenzi Zwane claimed in a written response that the Optimum Colliery, owned by the Gupta family, indeed has R1.5bn in a trust fund for rehabilitation purposes as required by law.

The trust fund is, according to Zwane, held by India’s Bank of Baroda.

Fin24 earlier reported that the Mumbai-based lender allegedly started closing the bank accounts of companies controlled by the Gupta family. This was however denied by Oakbay Investments, the Gupta’s main holding company. 

READ: Bank of Baroda SA 'closing' Gupta accounts 

Zwane’s claim about the rehabilitation fund was in response to a Parliamentary question from the DA’s James Lorimer who asked Zwane to convey the total amount of money the coal mine has available for rehabilitation.

“According to the company records there is an amount of R1 523 405 982.36 available in a trust fund, held by the Bank of Baroda,” Zwane said in his response.

Lorimer’s question comes after the amaBhungane Centre for Investigative Journalism published an article in October last year on Daily Maverick, alleging that the Department of Mineral Resources approved in writing that R1.3bn from the environmental trust fund be transferred to the Bank of Baroda. 

Former finance minister Pravin Gordhan alluded to this in an affidavit submitted last year which formed part of a number of suspicious and unusual transactions identified in the Financial Intelligence Centre's (FIC) report attached to his affidavit.

According to amaBhungane, there had been speculation that Tegeta intended to raid the rehabilitation fund in order to repay loans they likely obtained to buy the Optimum Colliery. 

Oakbay however insisted at the time that the money in the rehabilitation fund balance was moved from the Optimum Mine Rehabilitation Trust's account with Standard Bank to the Bank of Baroda in June 2016 due to Standard Bank's closure of all company accounts. 

READ: Money was not removed from Optimum Trust - Oakbay

Mines are required by law to set aside R1.5bn in an environmental trusts fund that should be used for rehabilitation when a mine closes.

Tegeta allegedly “inherited” this money when they bought Optimum in November 2015.

Zwane in his Parliamentary response however confirms that the R1.5bn is still intact.

“According to the company records the amount has not changed, however the amount may likely to change due to interest accrued on maturity date.” 

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