Coal dust gets in your eyes

Finweek English Edition - - COMPANIES & MARKETS - SHAUN HAR­RIS shaunhar­ris@ya­hoomail.com

COAL MIN­ING – even open­cast coal min­ing – is a dirty busi­ness. But some­body has to do it. It seems Sen­tula Min­ing does it well. But its part­ner, maybe now ex-part­ner, isn’t play­ing nicely. The plan – as pro­posed through nu­mer­ous Sens an­nounce­ments – was an ex­change of shares be­tween Sen­tula and Shan­duka Re­sources, which would have given Sen­tula ac­cess to some of Shan­duka’s coal as­sets. The for­mal part of the agree­ment was con­cluded in April this year.

That should have been that. But one of the con­di­tions prece­dent was the ap­proval of the ex­change of shares by Shan­duka’s share­hold­ers. They came back and said “no way”. Seems there were other plans afoot. Sure enough, there were. In a Sens that sounds as hurt as a Sens can be, Sen­tula said it had been ad­vised by an un­named se­nior ex­ec­u­tive of Shan­duka that its share­hold­ers had ap­proved the ac­cep­tance of an al­ter­na­tive of­fer for Shan­duka’s coal as­sets.

Sen­tula’s re­sponse was to give Shan­duka short no­tice – to mid­night on 30 June 2011 – to mend its ways and ac­cept the of­fer. Shan­duka ap­pears to have given Sen­tula a po­lite fin­ger. So it looks as if it all falls apart and comes to noth­ing.

It’s not just the coal dust that makes coal min­ing a dirty busi­ness. Read­ers and in­vestors might re­mem­ber Sen­tula used to be called Schar­rig Min­ing, named af­ter the Schar­righuisen brothers who founded the com­pany. That was back around 1972 and the com­pany seemed to be do­ing well, list­ing on the JSE in 1993.

But the brothers got into trou­ble and had to leave the com­pany, one by one. Hence the name change. It’s a new com­pany now but do­ing the same old busi­ness.

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