20 April 2024 | 10:17 AM

Chinese in bid to buy Aurora stake

Key Takeaways

Embattled Aurora Empowerment Systems is in trouble again, with a fresh liquidation application launched against the company this month.

Ian Cousins, chief executive of Copper Eagle Trading 108, confirmed this week that he launched the application in the North Gauteng High Court on September 15 for R10-million owed to him for gold-bearing material.

But this only adds to the confusion surrounding Aurora’s status as caretaker of the liquidated Pamodzi gold mines, which it took control of in August last year.

The Grootvlei and Orkney operations came to a standstill in March when workers downed tools for nonpayment of salaries.

The company boasts President Jacob Zuma’s nephew, Khulubuse, and Nelson Mandela’s grandson, Zondwa, on its board of directors.

Liquidator Enver Motala said that a Chinese consortium, which he would not name, was planning to buy 65% of Aurora’s shares, which would enable the firm to purchase the mines from the liquidators.

“It’s almost a done deal with the Chinese,” he said. “They have R1.2-billion to inject immediately.”

He added that Swiss investor GEM has injected R14-million of the R1.2-billion it had agreed to invest in Aurora and is expected to pay the remaining amount in the coming months.

But sources close to the liquidation process say other liquidators are unaware of the Chinese consortium.

“It’s pie in the sky,” said one source. “No one knows anything about them. They haven’t done a due diligence and we haven’t had any feedback about them.”

Another source claimed that GEM had pulled out of its agreement with Aurora, but Motala denied this.

To compound the confusion, negotiations by Virgile Asia Mining (VAM) to buy the mines are threatening to turn bitter.

VAM is a collaboration between South African mining company Virgile Mining and an undisclosed Hong Kong partner.

According to chief executive Hettie Fourie, VAM has offered to pay R260-million for both mines, but is conducting a second due diligence.

“The liquidators want us to offer R395-million for East Rand and R295-million for Orkney, but no investor will ever do such a thing,” Fourie said.

“We were informed that a Chinese consortium wants to take over, but that will take a year — and then what will be left? Why is Motala flying to Beijing when he knows there are funds in South Africa?”

Fourie complained that Motala was

making communication with other liquidators difficult.

“Enver Motala rules and reigns [over] the liquidators’ meetings so that the others can’t get a word in,” she said.

But Motala said he does everything in consultation with the rest of the liquidating team.

“The due diligence [VAM] did was wrong,” he said.

“They only did a desktop due diligence and their offer for the mines is hopelessly low.”

Aurora spokesperson Michael Hulley declined to respond, claiming it was not a matter of public interest.

Additional reporting by Yolandi Groenewald

Guards ‘acted in self-defence’

The four security guards arrested for the murder of an alleged illegal miner at Aurora’s Grootvlei operation last Saturday acted in self-defence, according to their attorney, Piet du Plessis.

Delta Blue security guards Myles Purdon, Lawrance Mkhwananzi, Riaan Nortje and Johannes Nortje appeared in the Springs Magistrate’s Court on Tuesday on charges of murder connected to the death of the miner.

They were released on bail of R2 000 each and the case was postponed to November 4.

Saturday’s incident, in which 15 so-called illegal miners were also arrested, was the second shoot-out between guards and miners in the past month.

Four illegal miners were killed by security guards in August, but no one has been arrested in connection with those killings yet.

Delta Blue Security was contracted to protect the mines after Protea Coin Security terminated its contract in July.

A former senior employee at Aurora said theft was also a major problem at Aurora. “In one day R18-million worth of cable was stolen,” he said.

But liquidator Enver Motala said theft wasn’t an issue and an investigation had been conducted into missing assets.

This article was produced by amaBhungane, investigators of the M&G Centre for Investigative Journalism, a nonprofit initiative to enhance capacity for investigative journalism in the public interest. www.amabhungane.co.za.

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Before joining the amaBhungane team in 2017, Micah was the national coordinator for media freedom and diversity at the Right2Know Campaign. He holds a Masters in African Studies from Oxford University and a BA Honours in History from Wits University.

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