For the first time since 2016, former workers of Lily and Barbrook gold mines in Mpumalanga are getting paid about R15 million of the money owed to them.
Arqomanzi, which has been fighting tooth and nail against the mine’s Australian owners, Vantage Goldfields (VGO), to acquire the business decided to start paying immediately after the Mbombela High Court ruled in their favour last week – finding that the business rescue practitioners, Rob Devereux and Daniel Terblanche, were wrong not to publish business rescue plans based on the company’s R250 million offer.
The sister mines were closed and put under business rescue in 2016 after an entrance to Lily Mine sank and buried a container office with three workers inside. The workers – Yvonne Mnisi, Pretty Nkambule and Solomon Nyirenda – were never retrieved.
Arqomanzi went to court after the business rescue practitioners chose to publish plans in favour of Australian company, Macquarie Metals, which bought 98% of VGO. Devereux and Terblanche claimed that Macquarie’s offer was better. However, before Macquarie made its offer, Arqomanzi had already done so and expected to have its plans published in February this year.
About 1 000 workers lost their jobs when the mines were shut down. Arqomanzi’s director, Neil Herrick, said that each worker would receive an initial payment of R15 000. This means that the company will pay about R15 million.
“We have been criticised a lot by VGO, who said we do not have the money to re-open the mines. We are demonstrating that we have the money,” Herrick said.
He said that the payment process started this morning and, once the paperwork was complete, the workers would be paid within three days. He also said that as soon as the business rescue plan is complete, the company will pay 65% of the debt to workers within five days, and the remaining 35% within 30 days.
The Mbombela High Court gave the business practitioners until July 1 to publish the business rescue plans.
The workers’ spokesperson, Harry Mazibuko, said that they headed into the day with a sense of renewed hope, because they would be able to put food on the table.
“There has been no rescue. Instead, the business rescue practitioners have turned against us, the people who are the lifeblood of the mine, as have the mines’ owners, Vantage. We are amazed that Vantage has done nothing to help its workers, or taken any steps to reopen the mine,” said Mazibuko.
Mazibuko said that the workers were grateful to Chief Tikhontele Dlamini and Arqomanzi for standing by them.
“Today, Arqomanzi is here with supporting teams to start making payments to our people so we have something to live on while the business rescue battle continues in the courts. We now believe in Arqomanzi as they have, without fail, shown up to stand by us, with all due respect to our chief who has been a vital facilitator in the discussions that have led to this day,” he said.