Fiji villagers complain of ‘red’ sea

The sediment pond at the XINFA Bauxite mine in Naibulu, Dreketi which is said to have spilled waste water. Picture: LUKE RAWALAI

Luke Rawalai | Fiji Times | March 17, 2017

XINFA Aurum Exploration Fiji Ltd has strongly denied claims that sediment ponds at their mining site were overflowing, spilling into waterways and ending up in the sea.

The sediment ponds hold wastewater from the mining process.

The company made the statement after people raised concerns regarding the change in water colour during adverse weather experienced last week in Nasarawaqa, Naibulu, Nakalou and surrounding areas.

The company’s senior officer San Lei said it was just normal water runoff from land.

Mr Lei said all wastewater from the mine was contained in the sediment pond at the mine and none had seeped into the waterways as claimed. However, villagers of Sasake in Bua claimed heavy rain in the mine area caused spill-off from the sediment ponds that ended up in the sea.

Viliame Bailato, who claims to have fished in the area for 20 years, said seawater around the village turned red during the heavy rain, claiming it was soil carried by rain water from the mining site and the sediment pond.

Mr Bailato said the normal run-off from land during heavy rain was different from what they experienced last week.

He said last week they had to travel to open sea to catch fish because there were no fish within the lagoon.

The 53-year-old said the incident had been happening for a while now, claiming the spillage had even driven mud crabs and other marine organisms from their shores.

Nasarawaqa fisherman Oliva Uga alleged fish numbers in the area had dwindled because of the spillage.

Mr Uga said the waters in the area used to be known for the schools of mackerel or salala.

He said for three years now they had no sign of the fish in their fishing grounds.

Other fishermen in both areas claim waters within the Nasarawaqa, Dreketi and Nakalou areas had been affected by the spillage last week.

Responding to questions from this newspaper, permanent secretary for the Lands and Mineral Resources Ministry, Malakai Finau, said muddy water experienced last week was the result of normal run-off from land. Mr Finau said it was normal for the sea to turn muddy during heavy rain, adding this even happened at the Rewa River.

He said officials from the ministry had been at the mine to verify claims from people, adding they would send them to the mine site again to verify the current claims.

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