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Claim lodged against Apex by former boss

FORMER Apex Minerals boss Mark Ashley has lodged a statutory demand for almost $500,000 against his old company over allegedly unpaid termination entitlements.

FORMER Apex Minerals boss Mark Ashley has lodged a statutory demand for almost $500,000 against his old company over allegedly unpaid termination entitlements.

Mr Ashley left the troubled the Wiluna goldminer earlier this year, to be replaced by former St Barbara boss Ed Eshuys as part of a restructuring to keep Apex afloat.

Mr Ashley was entitled to a $1.3 million payout, Apex announced in March. Documents released with the company's March $22.2 million rights issue said Mr Ashley was entitled to the payout on his departure, including a $720,000 termination, $300,000 of annual leave and $240,000 of unpaid salary. The termination deal included a deed of settlement extinguishing claims made by Mr Ashley and Apex against each other.

But Mr Eshuys said yesterday Apex disputed the extent of the termination payment.

"We dispute the amount, because the number isn't right as to what his statutory after-tax entitlements are," Mr Eshuys said.

"That's with our lawyers now."

Despite raising almost $35 million in new debt and equity and from asset sales since February, Apex was forced back to the capital markets this week to raise an extra $2.7 million in working capital.

Mr Eshuys said Apex had more pressing creditor debt than had been disclosed by the company before he took charge, which substantially reduced the amount of capital he had believed would be available for maintenance and development work at the Wiluna mine.

In its March prospectus for a $22.2 million rights issue, Apex said it would use $4.8 million of the proceeds from the raising to meet creditor payments.

A supplementary prospectus three weeks later raised that figure to $5.7 million.

According to yesterday's shareholder disclosure, Apex had paid $20.6 million in creditor liabilities outstanding at April 19, with another $2.1 million of trade liabilities outstanding, along with $1.5 million in employee superannuation arrears.

Mr Eshuys said he had been unaware of how pressing many of Apex's liabilities were before taking charge of the company.

"They [trade creditors] had been pushing for payment of the bills, and we weren't aware of it," he said.

"There were, in fact, exchanges of letters indicating that these monies were going to be paid out of the entitlements issue. And we weren't aware of that."

A $4 million short-term debt facility extended by Andrew Forrest's The Metal Group to Apex in late March had been spent on back wages to employees and on "critical supplies" even before he took charge, Mr Eshuys said.

Despite the funding issues, Mr Eshuys said he was on track to meet promises to shareholders that the Wiluna mine would be cash flow positive by the end of September.

Mr Eshuys said Apex expected to produce 15,000 to 17,000 ounces in the September quarter, at a cash cost of $1200 to $1300 per ounce.

Mr Ashley could not be contacted.

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