A group of Optimum Coal Mine creditors has asked the Gauteng High Court (Pretoria) to urgently consider an application to liquidate the coal mine.

It is owned by the Gupta family and has been idle for two years due to a stalled business rescue process.

According to a Business Maverick report, creditors, who said they are ‘many in number’, are collectively owed R383.8m by Optimum, representing at least 14% of claims against the mine.

The creditors have asked the court to urgently hear an application launched by Westdawn Investments in 2019 to liquidate Optimum. Westdawn is a mining contractor that does business as JIC Mining Services and is also linked to members of the Gupta family.

Its liquidation application of Optimum has not been heard by the High Court in the seven months since it was launched.

The application means that one Gupta-family linked company (Westdawn Investments) has applied for the liquidation of a mine also linked to the family (Optimum). The Optimum creditors, who have organised themselves under a creditors’ committee, approached the High Court to support Westdawn Investments’ liquidation application.

In court papers, the creditors said they want the liquidation application to be heard on 11 August and ‘if not that date, as soon as possible and on an expedited basis’.

The creditors said Optimum has been in business rescue for more than two years and ‘no business rescue plan has been adopted in relation to the entity’, notes the Business Maverick report.

According to the Companies Act, which governs business rescue proceedings in SA, such proceedings should ideally last for three months. And within three months, business rescue practitioners are required to draft a rescue plan, have it implemented, or declare that a company’s rescue has no reasonable prospect of success.

Such a declaration would pave the way for a company to be liquidated.

Because Optimum is ‘financially distressed’ and ‘commercially insolvent’, the coal mine is a prime candidate for liquidation, the creditors said.

But the Optimum rescue practitioners, Kurt Knoop and Louis Klopper, are against the liquidation, with the pair’s lawyer, Bouwer van Niekerk, recently saying in Parliament that there are at least three potential buyers for the coal mine.

But there are delays around concluding the three bids because there are difficulties around sourcing funding for the restart of the mine, said Van Niekerk.

Full Daily Maverick report