Repeka Nasiko | The Fiji Times | April 25, 2017
VATUKOULA Gold Mine Ltd will wait on the outcome of the full audit carried out by the Department of Mineral Resources before deciding on the next course of action.
Company’s corporate services manager Dinny Laufenboeck said the company’s underground operations would remain closed until the audit was completed.
“Since all three incidents occurred in Vatukoula’s underground workings, the only competent authority to conduct an investigation and to whom all reporting is made, is the Mineral Resources Department,” she said.
“Work in the particular area (Smith Shaft) where the fatality occurred was suspended (and remains suspended). That is standard practice.
“Vatukoula’s underground workings are very extensive with outlying areas some kilometres away from where the fatality occurred and at varying depth.
“Since the subsequent two rock fall injuries occurred in another shaft (Philip Shaft), the MRD clearly deemed it timely to suspend operations mine wide and conduct an audit to determine what, if any, the contributory causes may have been.”
Ms Laufenboeck said the onus would also be on VGML on how it would satisfy the Mineral Resources Department audit team.
She said the Mineral Resources Department was the only authority licensed to inspect mines.
“Because the mining situation is dynamic, it is constantly changing and unlike a surface building which, once made safe, remains that way until something breaks or changes dramatically, we make the underground situation safe to work in but then make it unsafe by blasting with explosives to break the rock to produce gold and then make it safe again to bring out the rock.
“The Mineral Resources Department is the only authority with inspectors professionally trained for inspections in an underground environment,” she said.
Last week, Minister for Lands Faiyaz Koya suspended all underground operations at the mine pending a full audit of the company resulting in about 500 employees being sent home.
Mr Koya had said there was no set timeline on the audit.