Tag Archives: Health and safety

ExxonMobil employee held hostage in PNG’s Hela province

Extractive industries bring upheavals to Papua New Guinea communities: earth-moving underway for the ExxonMobil-led Liquefied Natural Gas project in Hela Province. Photo: RNZI / Johnny Blades

Radio New Zealand | June 5, 2017

A scientist working for ExxonMobil in Papua New Guinea was held hostage last week by armed tribesmen in Hela Province who wanted police to release a local warlord.

The men, who were carrying home-made firearms, abducted the woman from the vicinity of the Komo airfield on Friday as they were on their way to the Tari police station to demand the release of their kinsman.

The police commander for Hela province Michael Welly said the woman was held for two hours at the most before being released.

“The hostage takers went into the camp, got this female employee and held her hostage and demanded that police release the suspect so my men had to give in to their demand and release the suspect who initially had the home-made firearm on him,” said Superintendent Welly.

“We know those suspects involved in the hostage situation. We know their identity. We will have them arrested soon.”

Superintendent Welly confirmed that the woman, an employee of Exxon Mobil, is an environmental scientist with the Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) project and that she was from coastal PNG.

LNG Project facility, Hela Province, Papua New Guinea Photo: RNZI / Johnny Blades

Exxon Mobil praised the police handling of the incident.

“Exxon Mobil is taking very seriously the abduction of one member of its staff in the vicinity of Komo airfield on Friday,” said an ExxonMobil spokesperson.

“We are relieved to say that the incident was resolved quickly and that all our staff are safe.”

The company said the issue was not directly related to PNG LNG activities.

“We continue to encourage constructive dialogue as the means to resolving tensions.

“Exxon Mobil PNG is committed to maintaining a positive relationship with landowners, the government and the wider community,” said the company spokesperson.

PNG security forces parade at the launch of the election security operation in Mt Hagen. Friday 26 May 2017. Photo: PNG EMTV online

Michael Welly said it was an isolated incident and not related to the upcoming national elections, which have prompted a beefing up of security in the province in recent months.

He said there were strategies in place to deal with aniticipated security issues in Hela during and after polling which starts on 24 June and is scheduled to run over two weeks.

“I am hoping that the response unit that is going to be deployed into Hela province is done soon enough so that I can strategically locate them in the hot spot areas that I think we need to maintain for the smooth running of the elections,” said Michael Welly.

Mr Welly said the response unit had been gearing up in Mt Hagen over the weekend in preparation for deployment from Tari.

He said he was hoping to get two police mobile squads and two platoons of defence force personnel for the election period.

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Partial operations start at Vatukoula Gold Mines

See also: Fiji: Mining Work Ceased, 500 Workers Sent Home

Dhanjay Deo | Fiji Village | 10 May 2017

The Mineral Resources Department has given the green light to the Vatukoula Gold Mines to start underground operations in some parts of the mine.

Director Mineral Development, Dr. Raijeli Taga says the areas that have been opened for operations have been identified as safe with its procedures in place.

Meanwhile Taga says the full audit will take time as there are many issues to be addressed with the underground mining to ensure that work practices are up to the standard that are safe to work in.

Underground operations at the Vatukoula Gold Mine were shut down last month because of safety reasons.

An audit is being done after ground conditions had resulted in three incidents which include a fatality and two lost time injuries.

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Fiji gold mine awaits full audit report

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.

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Fiji worker injures head in mine shaft

Malakai Nabalarua (right) with his family at their home in Vatukoula. Picture: REINAL CHAND

See Also: Fiji: Mining Work Ceased, 500 Workers Sent Home

Repeka Nasiko | The Fiji Times | April 21, 2017

MALAKAI Nabalarua was underground in a Vatukoula Gold Mine mining shaft when a large rock hit his head.

Despite wearing head gear, the 23-year-old suffered serious head injuries.

The mineworker was the latest employee of the gold mining company to sustain serious injuries while working underground.

Speaking on behalf of her injured husband, Sereana Nasoko said the incident happened on Monday.

“The rock fell from the back hitting his helmet,” she said.

“He reacted immediately and moved forward to dodge it, but he hit another rock, injuring his face and jaw. There was a lot of blood on his head so they had to rush him to Lautoka.”

Ms Nasoko said the family was still shocked.

“He is still in a lot of pain. Every time he moves, there’s a sharp pain in his head and the rest of his body.”

She said her husband and his colleagues were currently at home waiting for a directive from the company or Government.

“Everyone was sent home and told that the mine would be closed for a while. We’ll just wait on what is decided by the company and Government after their investigation.”

Fiji Mine Workers Union president Jovesa Sadreu said the association welcomed the decision by Government to temporarily close all underground operations at the mine. Lands and Mineral Resources Minister Faiyaz Koya confirmed that underground operations at the mine had closed because the ministry was carrying out a full audit at the mine.

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Fiji: Mining Work Ceased, 500 Workers Sent Home

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.

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Mine workers in Fiji not covered by Health and Safety laws

Mine workers in Fiji are not covered by Occupational Health and safety Laws

Mine workers in Fiji are not covered by Occupational Health and Safety Laws

Union: Miners not covered

Felix Chaudhary | The Fiji Times | November 26, 2016

THE mining sector is not covered under the country’s Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) legislation, an issue that the Fiji Trades Union Congress is very concerned about.

FTUC national secretary Felix Anthony said miners had been promised they would have their own OHS laws since 2007, and yet, nothing had been done.

Employment, Productivity and Industrial Relations Minister Jone Usamate confirmed the mining industry was not covered under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1996.

Mr Usamate said the Act applied to all workplaces in Fiji except workplaces or operations connected with the Mining Act, Quarries Act, Explosives Act and Petroleum (Exploration and Exploitation) Act.

“The mining industry is not covered under the health and safety at Work Act as this law deals with health and safety in general whereas in mining, there are industry specific characteristics or risks that are specific to it,” he said.

“The competencies required for mine inspectorates are industry specific whilst OHS inspectors have general health and safety competencies and the mining industry operates under stringent risk management systems that are unique to the mining industry.

“I will look into this issue ensuring at all times that the best interests of Fiji as a whole are our priority.”

Mr Anthony said mine employees worked in a dangerous industry.

“The risk of injury and even death is extremely high and there are no OHS laws to govern their workplace,” he said.

“We are very concerned about the working condition of workers in the mining industry and call on the Government to look into the matter with urgency.”

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Chief Inspector of Mines: Change legislations to benefit workers

mra

Franklin Kolma | Post Courier | September 8, 2016

Papua New Guinea’s foremost authority on mining standards says there is dire need for legislations that prioritise the health and safety of mine workers.

Papua New Guinea Mineral Resource Authority’s Chief Inspector of Mines Mr Lave Michael said this yesterday during the third annual National Health and Safety Symposium held at the Divine Word University in Madang Province.

Mr Michael told a host of experts and scholars at the university’s SVD Auditorium that workers needed to be brought back to the centre of legislative processes as current legislations were outdated and irrelevant and did not have the interests of mine workers at the forefront of operations.

The MRA head explained that mining was at the epicentre of the country’s economic endeavours accounting for 60 percent of our export earnings and that legislations had to be changed to ensure that the employees’ health and safety were given prominence.

“Currently, mining companies come in and may have good worker welfare or health and safety policies, but at the end of the day our legislations take precedence,” said Mr Michael.

“Because our legislations take precedence, mining companies abide by our legislations which are out of date, focusing more on procedural and prescriptive notions rather than actual risk management.”

The MRA Chief Inspector said that as such legislations have let our mine workers down resulting in many cases of serious bodily grievances contracted during mine employment, a few of which have been fatal.

He said that 32 workers employed in mineral extraction entities have reportedly suffered serious illnesses with two confirmed deaths as a direct result of hazardous mine related endeavours.

“It is high time we stop being concerned about the golden eggs like infrastructure and development and start taking an interest in the hens that produce these societally enhancing eggs,” said Mr Michael.

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