Category Archives: Fiji

Mine Refutes Slime Spillage Claims

Nirmala Devi, 58, at her home in the Toko area in Tavua on April 13th. Behind her is mud residents claim is mixed with slime. Photo: Waisea Nasokia

Waisea Nasokia | Fiji Sun | April 15, 2018

The Vatukoula Gold Mine Limited (VGML) says its activities and operations pose no direct threat to its surroundings and residents in the area.

VGML made the comment after reports that the Ministry of Lands and Mineral Resources was investigating  claims that the Nasivi River in Vatukoula may have been contaminated by what has been described as toxic slime, which overflowed into the river at the height of Tropical Cyclone Keni.

Vatukoula Gold Mine Limited Corporate Services Manager and Senior Adviser to the General Manager Dinny Laufenboeck said the torrential rainfall brought on by TC Keni after weeks of prolonged rain and flood water in the Lobia Creek caused a washout of some dry tailings from an old tailings storage dam established in the early days of mining at Vatukoula.

“Solid tailings of the age of those which were washed out have minimal chemical residue since they have oxidised in the main,” she said.

“They are not water soluble. They therefore do not prevent the threat in a spillage which an uncontrolled discharge would pose from VGML’s current storage dam, for example, which is some distance from where the incident occurred.”

Ms Laufenboeck’s comments came as Ministry of Lands and Mineral Resources permanent secretary Malakai Finau said: “Staff from the Mineral Resources Department are currently at Vatukoula to inspect and verify the claims.”

A team from this newspaper visited some homes in Vatukoula which were affected by the floods in the wake of Tropical Cyclone Josie and Keni.

It was observed that the so-called slime blended with mud and had a distinct odour and colour at close inspection.

The slime is claimed to be waste that usually contains arsenic and mercury which flowed from the Vatukoula Gold Mine Limited slime dam.

In response, Ms Laufenboeck said, “VGML analyses all discharges from the Mine at a number of boundary points daily, including the Nasivi River, the results of which are provided to both the Mineral Resources Department as well as the Department of Environment.

“No threat has been detected to the waters surrounding Vatukoula by the events of the past week.

“Officers of the Mineral Resources Department have been on site during the week as part of their regular control inspections.

She refuted the claim that the discharge contained arsenic and mercury.

“Arsenic has never been used in the processing of ores at Vatukoula,” Ms Laufenboeck said.

“Mercury, which poses significant risks to the environment in countries where alluvial mining is carried out, has never been used in the main ore processing systems here because Vatukoula is a hard rock mine.”

Some residents are urging authorities to find out if the discharge did overflow into the Nasivi River and into residential areas.

Nirmala Devi, 58, of the Toko area said: “We noticed slime in our homes. During two previous floods we did not notice any slime.

“The company workers came and water-blasted our home, for which we are grateful,’’ Ms Devi said.

Nikola Nasila, 24, of Lomalagi said: “There has been deposit of slime found in the waterways. This is not only a health hazard, but will be an environmental disaster if it has happened.”

The majority of the residents confirmed what was found on the basis of anonymity.

“There were deposits and the company sent diggers to clear. We are told that when the mud is hard it will be taken to the mill for further process,” said one resident who declined to be named.

Ms Laufenboeck refuted the claims.

“The unpleasant smell experienced by the residents in the area would therefore not be attributable to any chemical residue from the tailings residue,” she said.

“Certainly VGML has offered assistance to the residents affected to clean up their homes.

“Should any resident in the area have any concerns, we would encourage them to make contact with the mine and ask for clarification.”


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Mine spill worry in Fiji

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 | April 13, 2018

SASAKE villagers in Bua, including fishers in Dreketi have showed their concern on the spillage of wastewater from Naibulu bauxite mining site, claiming the spillage has grown worse.

The fishers said the discolouration of seawater during heavy downpour continued to happen in the area.

Sasake villager Viliame Bailato claimed fish population in the area had dwindled over the years, adding they were worried about its effect in the next few years if spillage continued.

“People rely on fish and other marine organisms such as crabs for their sustenance and also to earn a living,” he said.

On behalf of fishers in the Dreketi irrigation area, Ashnil Kumar claimed waterways in the area would turn dark red during heavy rain because of the spillage from the mine’s sediment pond.

Responding to these concerns, Minister for Lands and Mineral Resources Faiyaz Koya said the ministry routinely and at times randomly carried out water sampling as they continued to monitor the mining operation and its commitment to environmental protection.

Mr Koya said past analytical results indicated that they conformed to the National Water Discharge Standards.

“Physical parameters such as total suspended solids (TSS) and total dissolved solids (TDS) were analysed to be also within the standard in the mine vicinity,” he said.

“However, water samples collected during periods of heavy rain indicates high TDS and TSS which is basically discolouration along the normal waterways draining the water catchments that includes Naibulu East mine.

“The ministry remains committed to continue with such monitoring and is not working in isolation as it encourages self-regulation by the mining companies, because it is in their best interest to follow best international practices and comply with the relevant laws,” said Mr Koya.

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$1.61M paid to 4 landowning units in Nawailevu village in premium and rental returns – Koya

Minister for Land and Mineral Resources Faiyaz Koya

Iva Danford | Fiji Village | 16 March 2018

A total of $1.61 million has been paid out to the four landowning units in Nawailevu village in Vanua Levu in premium and rental returns.

This was highlighted by the Minister for Land and Mineral Resources Faiyaz Koya who says that the Mataqali, Nalutu received $85,893.45 in rock royalty payments.

Koya says that 11 Yavusa’s in the Districts of Lekutu and Navakasiga in Bua have received fishing rights compensation amounting to $275,000.

He says the other benefits enjoyed by the landowners are the trucks purchased from the lease money that have been used for business purposes like transportation of staff, school children and other mataqali needs.

Koya says that the Mataqali Naicobo purchased a 3-tonne carrier to transport workers, school children and attended to other mataqali commitments.

He says that the Mataqali Nalutu has utilized their lease monies for housing purposes, purchase of fishing gear to assist them with their small business operations.

While responding to Koya’s statement, SODELPA MP Josefa Dulakiverata says that the mining company in Nawailevu should not have been given new exploration and mining license until rehabilitation process in Nawailevu has finished.

Meanwhile, the Minister for Lands and Mineral Resources says that government cannot influence the utilization of revenues received and the landowners are at liberty to utilize their funds how they want to, as the choice rests solely on the landowners. 

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Nawailevu bauxite mine site ceases operation

Akosita Talei | FBC News | 12 March 2018

The Nawailevu bauxite mine in Bua has ceased operations and is undergoing progressive rehabilitation program on the site.

This has been confirmed by Minister for Mineral Resources Faiyaz Koya adding this is one of the conditions listed in the mining lease prior to the closure of a mine.

Koya says the mining site is to undergo progressive rehabilitation with a reforestation program of 160,000 pine seedlings.

” Of the 160,000 pine seedlings there are now 90,000 standing pine plants. The rehabilitation program is on-going until the site is fully rehabilitated to be handed back to the landowning units of Nawailevu, Bua for the benefit of the landowners.”

He says the mining company Xinfa Aurum Exploration is exploring other species to plant in the area to benefit the resource owners.

“It’s this measure which is put in place by the Ministry to ensure that the land is returned with added value for the benefit of the landowners. Madam Speaker, unlike previous governments, the benefits will accrue to the future generations and the generation now.”

Bauxite ore is mined from 408 hectares of prospective zones in Nawailevu and Naibulu in Macuata earning the government $1.4m in revenue on royalty.

$1.7m revenue was paid to the landowning units in these two areas while $781,800 was paid to the government.

The two sites have produced more than a million tonnes of bauxite ore since its commencement in 2011.

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Fiji Landowners Support Move To Conserve Forest, River

Usiana Tuimaisala | Fiji Sun | 29 January 2018

Nature Fiji and Rivers Fiji are leading the way in raising awareness on the impor­tance of protecting and conserving our forest on the Upper Navua Con­servation Area (UNCA).

Rivers Fiji is the only white-water rafting company in Fiji that takes tourists on excursions through the Upper Navua River.

Operations manager, Basilio Cakaunivalu said Rivers Fiji has made an agreement between the Se­rua landowners of nine clans from the two villages of Nabukelevu and Wainadiro and TLTB for no logging, mining and extracting gravel for the 16 kilometres river stretch that its protects.

Nature Fiji director Nunia Moko said “the UNCA is one of the wet­land sites that contains one of the largest remaining protected stand of the endemic and threatened sago palm.

“One of the reasons we work with Rivers Fiji is because we believe the fact that the UNCA is a unique place that needs to be conserved.”

She said they believed the future conservation of the area lies in the hands of the landowners.

“In order to sustain this conserva­tion programme, we had designed with Rivers Fiji through the oppor­tunity of the Ramsar small grant fund and awareness campaign that will target the landowners.”

Dilisi Lewanivaturu, 50, of the Cawanisa clan said a lot of logging was going on in the area, and the clan thanks Rivers Fiji for the idea on the protection of the river’s corri­dor which is 200 meters on each side.

“We have a beautiful place and we don’t want it to be destroyed.”

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Fiji Miner Invests Over $40M To Dig Deeper: Dinny Laufenboeck, Corporate Services Manager

Chinese engineers at the control centre at the new power house at Vatukoula Gold Mines. Photo: Karalaini Tavi

Charles Chambers Lautoka | Fiji Sun | December 30 2017

Vatukoula Gold Mines Limited has invested over $40 million to allow workers to dig deeper and further away from the existing infrastructure.

“The richest parts which are closest to surface have been mined out in the last 18 years,” Dinny Laufenboeck, the company’s Corporate Services Manager and Special Advisor to the General Manager said.

“So we have to go deeper and further away from the existing infrastructure.”

“That is a huge cost and while doing all this we have to keep the mine dry by pumping water out, have it ventilated and provide lighting.”

The areas that have been producing the best ore and veins have diminished.

Over the past 75 years, the mine has produced over seven million ounces of gold.

“I keep stressing this is an old gold mine and everybody knows that,” Ms Laufenboeck said.

Gold was reportedly discovered in Vatukoula in 1932 or 85 years ago from November 2017.

A man by the name of Bill Borthwick discovered gold with work actually being done to build the gold mines starting from 1935 to 1936.

Now, Zhongrun International Mining, a Chinese company with controlling shareholders, took over in 2014 and prioritised cutting expenditure and improving efficiency as the major work to be done.

Perhaps one of their major costs is the continuing pumping of water out of the mines because before they can start mining they have to pump the water out.

Dinny Laufenboeck said: “they recognised the cost involved and had to decide to either walk away from it or bite the bullet and develop more to reduce costs.”

Here’s What They Have Done:

The new $30 million power house has already been built and is being tested.

A new ventilation and hoisting shaft, which is to cost around $10 million is being done at an area called Dolphin at the old Wren Shaft. The idea is to sink a new shaft which would improve working conditions with better ventilation and open up new areas in Philip’s Shaft.

The upgrading of the Vatukoula Treatment Plant and Trailings Retreatment.

The company has also installed four state of the art air quality monitoring stations valued at approximately $120,000 around Vatukoula to monitor all emissions.  They are regarded as the most advanced available in Fiji.

The investment in new pumps for the de-watering of underground operations.

A joint venture with a Canadian based exploration company.

The training of local miners in steep structure mining by Chinese experts.

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Fiji farmers’ claims of waste spillage refuted

Luke Rawalai | The Fiji Times | November 28, 2017

THE Mineral Resources Department has refuted claims by livestock farmers in Naibulu, Dreketi of bauxite waste water spillage.

Naibulu livestock farmer Deo Chand told this newspaper that livestock in the area had nowhere to drink since drains were flooded with excessive waste water from the mining site, which spilled into waterways. Mr Chand said livestock farmers normally relied on rainwater that filled the drains to quench their animals’ thirst.

“However, when it rains this becomes a problem because the water in these drains turn reddish and we believe this is water from the mine site’s collection pond,” he said.

Another livestock farmer, Anup Kumar, said they did not face the problem before mining started in the area.

Responding to these concerns, Mineral Resources Department director Raijeli Taga said in the last inspection report by the team, the runoffs from stockpiles and mining area had been taken care of.

Ms Taga said sediment traps had been installed to cater for runoffs.

“These are closely monitored by the mine manager and the inspection team to avoid stream sedimentation,” she said.

“The wet season is being accounted for in the monitoring plans because of the protection of the downstream communities’ livelihood, which also includes the ecosystem in the area of mining.

“Evidence received so far from the mine site manager has shown that such plans and management strategies and plans indicated that it is working, hence the need to continue to monitor for improvements.

“An inspection team sent out included a (Ministry of) Lands officer from our northern office and an officer from the Department of Environment.”

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