Fiji Sun | April 20, 2017
A recent death and a series of accidents have forced the closure of all underground operations at the Vatukoula Gold Mines.
The closure has seen about 500 underground workers sent home, pending the outcome of a safety audit.
A team of mine inspectors from the Department of Mineral Resources are conducting their investigations and checks of all shafts at the mines.
This was confirmed by the Director Mineral Resources, Raijieli Taga yesterday.
“Yes the closure is temporary and it is being done for safety reasons,” Ms Taga said.
She confirmed that a recent death and injuries to workers below the surface was the main contributing factor towards the temporary closure.
The latest death at the mines occurred on April 5 when a shaft supervisor was killed after two rocks, believed to have been loosened by an explosion, fell on him.
Tekiata Teuongo Teirei, 51, was believed to have died after the rocks crashed on his back, smashing his backbone and spinal cord.
He was on the afternoon shift, which was from 3pm – 11pm and was about to finish work, when the alleged incident happened at the Smith’s Shaft, which is about 1700ft below the surface.
Ms Taga said the mine inspectors were investigating the safety aspects of the mine and the police were also included because of the death of Mr Teirei.
“I cannot confirm as to how long the investigations will take and what will happen after that,” she said.
“However, the findings of the mine inspectors will be tabled before a board of inquiry where a decision would be made.”
Ms Taga said all shafts would undergo the safety audit.
As for the underground workers being sent home, Ms Taga said she believed they would be on full salary.
From the era of the Emperor Gold Mines Ltd until the present day, it is believed that this was the first time that all underground operations were closed for a safety audit.
Queries through e-mail and phone calls to VGML’s Corporate Services manager, Dinny Laufenboeck, were unsuccessful.