Monthly Archives: January 2016

Mine executives escape responsibility for deaths in Hungary

A man walks next to his destroyed house in the flooded village of Kolontar, Hungary October 6, 2010. REUTERS/Laszlo Balogh

A man walks next to his destroyed house in the flooded village of Kolontar, Hungary October 6, 2010. REUTERS/Laszlo Balogh

Hungary court acquits leaders of firm behind toxic spill

Marton Duna | Reuters

Fifteen people tried in connection with a toxic spill from an alumina reservoir in western Hungary that killed 10 people in 2010 were acquitted on Thursday, an outcome a local mayor said would only serve to further traumatize and anger residents.

The spill was one of Hungary’s worst environmental disasters. Toxic red mud flowing from the reservoir destroyed hundreds of homes across three towns, covered the countryside and seeped into rivers as far downstream as the Danube.

It took years to clean up at a cost of about 40 billion forints ($140 million).

MAL Corp, the aluminum smelting company that owned the faulty alumina reservoir was subsequently taken over by the government, which declared it responsible for the incident and began to close it down. It is still under liquidation.

But in a first instance ruling, the court in the western town of Veszprem said executives and top employees of MAL had not been criminally negligent, nor had they committed other crimes they were charged with during the 40-month legal procedure.

“The defendants had no realistic and objective opportunity to discover the hazards that had formed,” the court said in a statement, adding that relevant authorities had signed off on the reservoir’s blueprints and operation, and conducted regular checks.

“The authorities had uncovered no shortfalls and prescribed no additional checks. The catastrophe had no predictable, visible, recognizable prior sign,” the court said.

It was not immediately clear whether prosecutors would appeal the verdict.

Earlier, a local far right politician, Lajos Kepli, protested in the court, holding up a sign showing an image of the devastation. It read: “Is this the worth of ten lives?” He was led out by police, a Reuters witness said.

Karoly Tili, the mayor of nearby Kolontar, the first village that was struck, said locals, many of whom had yet to recover from the disaster, would be devastated.

“I am disappointed,” he said by telephone. “I thought they would set an example in the case. The prosecution needs to appeal this, or people here will be very angry.”

Emotions in Kolontar were running high ahead of the trial. On Wednesday, Jozsef Holczer, 67, whose house was destroyed, cried as he recalled the tragedy which swept away half the buildings in the village.

“I used to come here to sit with my friend Erno Stumpf under a big walnut tree that stood here,” Holczer said. “We would hide from the sun in summers, take shelter from the snow in winters, sit around and drink and talk.”

Stumpf and his sister died trying to save their pigs from the mud, the old man said.

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Gold majors in mix for PNG pit

Another piece of PNG is up for sale on the international market with no say for the landowners or even the PNG government…

Hidden Valley

Bridget Carter and Gretchen Friemann | Business Spectator

Some of the world’s major gold miners could be eyeing one of Newcrest’s troubled Papua New Guinea assets, with suggestions China’s Xijin and South Africa’s Gold Fields may be among a list of bidders for its Hidden Valley ­project should it come up for sale.

However, Australian groups Northern Star and Evolution Mining aren’t expected to be in the mix.

Newcrest yesterday indicated it was mulling options for Hidden Valley, a gold and silver operation about 300km northwest of the PNG capital Port Moresby, that it jointly owns with Harmony Gold Mining.

The mine, one of three owned by Newcrest in PNG, has struggled to turn a profit since it started producing in 2010, and some question whether the asset, which produces more silver than gold, should be shut down rather than sold due to its troubled history.

For the December quarter, 17,000 ounces of gold and silver were produced.

It is understood the mine has operational issues and a cost structure that makes generating a profit challenging.

Still, every asset has a price, and offered at the right price it could prove attractive for an offshore bidder.

Xijin and Gold Fields were both understood to be among the suitors for Newcrest’s Telfer gold and copper mine in Western Australia when it was placed on the market last year through adviser Bank of America Merrill Lynch.

However, it was withdrawn for sale after offers for the asset failed to live up to Newcrest’s expectation, understood to be around $500m.

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Newcrest ponders options for PNG’s Hidden Valley gold operation

Is Newcrest about to sell or close down its Hidden Valley mine?


The Hidden valley operation started producing gold in 2010

Rhiannon Hoyle | Wall Street Journal

Newcrest Mining is mulling its options for a troubled gold operation in Papua New Guinea that it owns with one of South Africa’s largest gold producers, which could include selling or closing the mine.

The Australian gold company runs the Hidden Valley operation, about 300km northwest of the nation’s capital, Port Moresby, jointly with Harmony Gold Mining, but has struggled to turn a profit from the business, which started producing gold for sale in 2010.

The mine–which, at five times higher than its flagship Cadia operation in Australia, is by far its costliest to run–has been hampered by poor ore grades and safety issues.

The mine sits in the mountains near the towns of Wau and Bulolo, at an altitude of roughly 2000 metres, where the terrain is steep, rainfall high and earthquakes not uncommon.

Macquarie in late November valued Newcrest’s Hidden Valley asset at $70 million. Since starting production, Newcrest has written down the value of Hidden Valley by hundreds of millions of dollars.

Hidden Valley has been one of a raft of strains for the gold producer, one of the world’s biggest, which has in recent years faced setbacks of almost every sort: from engineering faults at its mines and rain disrupting operations to unexpected tax bills. It was forced to write down its assets by billions of dollars as gold’s decade long bull-run ended and found itself in a regulatory tangle in 2013 when Australia’s securities watchdog investigated the company’s disclosure practices.

Newcrest’s top ranks have repeatedly bemoaned the “unacceptable” performance of the Hidden Valley complex, singling it out as an underperforming asset and vowing to turn the site around. However, signalling they may give up on that operation to focus on more-profitable mines, the company today said Hidden Valley is under review.

“The joint-venture partners are concurrently assessing all strategic options in relation to the future of the asset,” said Newcrest, which also has gold mines in places such as Australia, Indonesia and Ivory Coast. A spokeswoman said she couldn’t comment on how long the review may take.

Newcrest isn’t alone in reconsidering the future of one of its mines. As commodity prices have plunged and shareholders become pickier about their resources investments, miners around the world including BHP Billiton and gold major Barrick Gold have raced to trim down and focus on the best-performing facilities to protect profits.

At Hidden Valley, the cost of mining remains a big challenge. “Although an improvement on the prior quarter, which had significant production outages due to a fatality, the continued high cost nature of this operation” has led the joint venture to scale back some mining activities there until metal prices improve significantly, said Newcrest. A spokesman for Harmony couldn’t immediately be reached.

Newcrest said it produced more gold overall last quarter, as higher output from its Lihir mine, also in Papua New Guinea, and Telfer mine in Australia offset weaker volumes from its Cadia site, where it ran into difficulties with processing equipment.

The miner reported a 6 per cent on-quarter rise in total gold output, to 620,691 troy ounces, in the three months through December. Copper output, however, fell to 17,581 tonnes from 21,337 tons, it said.

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Fiji tying itself to a failed economic model

Fiji’s Prime Minister Bainimarama claims large-scale mining is the way forward for his country – but maybe the people will not be so easily fooled. A quick glance across the water to PNG should provide a chilling glimpse of what the future could hold if large-scale mining takes off. PNG has been wedded to large-scale mining for decades with devastating social, environmental and financial consequences. Billions of dollars have been made by the big foreign mining companies but local people have only the costs to comfort them…

PM: Mining will take Fiji forward

Aninesh Gopal | Fiji Times

PRIME Minister Voreqe Bainimarama says mining is one of the areas that will take Fiji forward.

Mr Bainimarama made the comment while handing over the lease to Tuvatu Gold Mine in Sabeto, Nadi this week.

“We will be revising our policy and institutional framework for mining and quarrying to update antiquated legislation so that responsible mining and mineral exploration and mining companies will work with us,” he said.

“I hope Tuvatu can be a model of what we can achieve economically, socially and environmentally.”

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Ramu mine workers want executive out and better safety standards

There is a long history of safety concerns

There is a long history of safety concerns at the Ramu mine

The National aka The Loggers Times

 More than 600 workers at Ramu nickel’s Kurumbukari mine in Madang went on a  strike over the weekend to have the mine management address issues.
Workers at Kurumbukari in Bundi supported by their colleagues at the mines refinery at Basamuk in Rai Coast gave a petition to the company management two weeks ago.
Ramu Nickel Workers’ Union vice–chairman Peter Aragaina said the response they got did not go down well so they decided to go on a sit-in strike last Thursday.
Aragaina said the workers pointed out 11 major issues affecting their work in a form of a petition.
One of the 11 points was to have the company vice–president removed from office over claims that local engineers and geologists were having problems communicating with him since he does not speak English or TokPisin.
“Communication is one of the problems we have, that’s why we keep misunderstanding ourselves and continue to have problems at work,” Aragaina said.
He said they also demanded the safety standards of the company should be up to Australian and New Zealand standards.

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Fiji: Bauxite exports halted


Joanne Vaetiti | Fiji Times

THE global recession has continued to affect bauxite export with no shipments departing from our shores since last year.

XINFA Aurum Exploration (Fiji) Ltd yesterday confirmed the drop in global demand had continued to affect export.

Company executive Derek Qiu said they hoped to begin exporting this year though he could not confirm a date.

The company only exported two shipments last year.

Mr Qiu said China was the biggest buyer of bauxite.

“Because of the global economy recession, the bauxite mining demand went down,” he said.

Mr Qiu added mining works was still in progress despite the low demand from the market.

Despite the global effect, Mr Qiu added the company focused on its rehabilitation work in Nawailevu, Bua.

He added they had planted 50,000 pine trees so far in the area, and were nursing 150,000 seedlings.

Fiji has exported $48million worth of bauxite so far from the shores of Bua.

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Ramu mine workers stage sit-in protest since Friday

MCC's Ramu mine headquarters in Madang

MCC’s Ramu mine headquarters in Madang

Miner urges staff to resume work

Post Courier

ALL RamuNiCo employees have been advised to resume work immediately by senior inspector with the Department of Labour and Industrial Relations, Paul Wartovo.

Mr Wartovo’s instruction follows a sit-in protest by the workers since last Friday, January 22.

This is after the company management responded to a letter by the unions on January 21, raising 11 points covering the daily management and operational issues of the project.

However, Mr Wartovo said appropriate industrial relations processes and procedures had not been followed before the protest.

“It is advised that all members of the union are to resume work immediately and allow the union executives and the management of RamuNiCo to seek DLIR’s intervention on the matter,” he said in a letter to the president of the union Justin Mende on January 22.

On this basis, RamuNiCo Management Ltd said the industrial action taken is in non-compliance with Ramu nickel project operations industrial award 2014 and directly betrays the trust established between the union and the company.

RamuNiCo has asked its employees to return to work with the commitment to seriously address the concerns raised.

“The company expresses its sincere desire to improve its performances within the context of operating in PNG and all that it entails,” the management said.

The Department representative, RamuNiCo management and the union executives will meet today, Wednesday January 27 for a compulsory conference pursuant to the Industrial Relations Act to arrange for a settlement on the 11 point petition.

Furthermore, the management said that all members of the union must be aware that there were very precise prerequisites in accordance with the “Industrial Organisation Act 1962 (Act) that must be complied with before any such action is taken.

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