Tag Archives: Health and safety

Ramu NiCo shuts down equipment for serious maintenance work

Poor workmanship and shoody construction has hampered the Ramu nickel mine

The National aka The Loggers Times | January 23, 2018

Maintenance work on high-pressure acid leaching (HPAL) of train one at Ramu Nico’s Basamuk Refinery is going on. Work started on Jan 11 and is scheduled to end on Friday.

Ramu Nico company said the maintenance shutdown was to thoroughly maintain the system, eliminate potential system deficits and test the integrity of the equipment within HPAL.

More than 500 workers, both Chinese and PNG national employees of Ramu NiCo and external vendors, are involved in shutdown maintenance activities.

Safety officers from Ramu NiCo’s health safety and environment department are monitoring the maintenance work.

The maintenance shutdown would enable stable and prolonged production output for next year.

This is now consistent for Ramu NiCo autoclaves, enabling proactive forecasting of production rates and effective planning of major equipment turnarounds.

Ramu NiCo Basamuk HPAL process has three trains which are a vital component of the nickel/cobalt project in Madang.
The three HPAL circuits are key components to the safe production at Basamuk.

Shutdown maintenance is carried out periodically with each high-pressure acid leaching circuit enjoying a 15-day annual overall, staggered throughout the year.

The planned overhaul focused on autoclave scale removal, including integrity checks of equipment and statutory requirements in relation to pressure vessels and valves.

The maintenance and repair of each auxiliary system is carried out according to planned schedules, including acid-producing plants and boilers.

The Basamuk high-pressure acid leaching processing department applies operational principles of compliance in safety and operation at high efficiency, including undertaking of stable and proper maintenance at Basamuk processing site.

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Mercury kit study work for small-scale miners

alluvial miners at work

Alluvial miners at work on Bougainville

ONE PNG  | 15 January 2018

A recent mercury research study conducted at the small scale mining branch in Wau, Morobe Province is a collaborative work between the mining engineering department of Papua New Guinea’s University of Technology, the Mineral Resources Authority (MRA) through its small scale mining branch and the University of Kyoto-Japan through the leadership of Professor Takaiku Yamamoto, has released its findings.

The use of mercury has become very popular among artisanal and small scale miners because amalgamation is known to efficiently extract fine particles of gold from concentrates obtained by panning and sluicing operations. Gold alloys with mercury to form an amalgam from which the gold can subsequently be separated by evaporating the mercury.

The simplicity of the technique, low investment costs and its comparatively high gold recovery rate has made the mercury amalgam method an integral part of the artisanal and small scale gold mining operations.

In Papua New Guinea, most of the gold deposits worked by the artisanal and small scale gold miners are alluvial deposits in which the gold particles are liberated from gangue particles. It is customary to use riffled sluice-boxes to recover the liberated gold particles.

However, some of the gold particles, particularly the fine gold, does not settle in the riffle compartments but flows over to be discarded as tailings. In the hope of trapping these fine gold particles the artisanal miners frequently place some mercury in between the riffle compartments.

Then in recent years some semi-mechanised and mechanised alluvial mining operations used grinding mills or amalgam barrels for amalgamation of concentrates derived from their recovery systems before putting it through the knelson concentrators or shaking tables for cleaning.

Due to shear force between centrifugal force and drag force in knelson concentrators or the stratification action of the shaking tables, mercury is easily dislodged from the gold and is lost to the tailings. This is because the bonding mechanism holding gold and mercury together is weak and doesn’t require much force to sever the gold particles from the mercury, and because of size and density differences, mercury ends up in the tailings and eventually in the river systems.

However, by far the most dangerous practice adopted by the miners is the gold recovery process from the gold mercury amalgams. Gold is recovered by evaporating the mercury from the amalgam over an open fire

This process is commonly known as “cooking.” The mercury vapour, which includes fine globules, is partly inhaled while the remainder is released into the atmosphere, which returns as part of the “mercury cycle.”

Methods introduced to avoid the practice of releasing mercury into the atmosphere and which can reduce the mercury loss to less than 0.1 per cent are available but have not been so popular amongst miners due to the discolouring effect on the gold after distillation in a retort.

This discolouration is caused by the presence of iron and arsenic compounds and results in a lower price being offered by gold buyers for the product.

One such device is the “Mercury Retort” which evaporates the mercury in a closed cycle and recovers it by condensing the vapour with cooling water.

Mercury is toxic and an environmental pollutant which drew world attention in 1953 after it was reported that a large number of people living in the Minamata bay area in Japan developed symptoms of disease which affected their central nervous system after consuming fish.

The fish in the bay were contaminated with methyl-mercury as a result of mercury being released into the bay by the Chisso Corporation, a chemical company operating on the shores of the bay. The mercury poisoning was responsible for a variety of clinical symptoms which included speech impediments, failure of muscular coordination, and contraction of visual fields in the eye, disturbance in smooth eyeball movements, enteral hearing loss and unbalance of body. The disease is now commonly known as the “Minamata Disease.”

The recent study conducted at theMRA small scale mining branch in Wau was a collaborative work between the mining engineering department of Papua New Guinea’s University of Technology, the University of Kyoto-Japan and the small scale miners in Wau/Bulolo was to trial a an Amalgam retorting machine from Kyoto University-Japan.

The objective was to test run the Japanese mercury recovery kit, a prototype amalgam retorting machine for the recovery of mercury and critically assess the overall performance, its efficiency and ease of operation of the device.

The promotion and use of the retorts would be very beneficial in the long term as they are capable of reducing discharge of mercury vapour into the atmosphere and the environment. It can also recover bulk of the mercury for recycling which would be a potential economic gain for the small scale miners and the chances of them being poisoned can be minimized through the establishment of central facilities in alluvial mining active areas which will alleviate the more dangerous practice of ‘cooking” amalgams.

A batch of mercury gold amalgam samples were provided by the miners from around Wau/Bulolo mining areas for over a period of one week to conduct the research activity by retorting them in the furnace at four different temperatures (300-500 OC, 300-600 OC, 300-700 OC ,300-800 OC) and the mercury recovery results observed ,recorded and calculated.

From this activity, it is noted that mercury which was emitted during the process was mostly trapped in the condensers 1 and 2.

The carbon filter indicated zero mercury which concludes that the air released at the vacuum pump has zero mercury vapour.

From the results obtained, the research team concluded after careful assessment of the overall performance and efficiency of the mercury recovery kit that it is an appropriate technology and should be promoted and used in Papua New Guinea’s artisanal and small scale gold mining industry for mercury and recycling recovery.

MRA managing director, Philip Samar, who was instrumental in introducing the technology, said the purpose of this collaboration was to reduce and mitigate the increased use and disposal of mercury into the environment and increase alluvial gold production, resulting in the health of both the environment and people plus improving the wellbeing of ordinary PNG alluvial miners.

The MRA through its small scale mining branch in Wau would like to thank its research partners for the collaborative work undertaken.

This has set a milestone in being proactive in reducing and controlling mercury contamination to the environment and the users in the artisanal and small scale mining industry.

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Harmony Gold achieves fatality free quarter in SA and Papua New Guinea

Harmony Gold Mining’s Kusasalethu mine in South Africa

If a fatality free quarter is a ‘milestone’, how many deaths are normally recorded?

Harmony Gold Mining has announced that its South African and Papua New Guinean operations achieved a milestone fatality free quarter during the June 2017 quarter.

Mining Review Africa | 14 July 2017

Harmony gold’s gold production for the 30 June 2017 financial year is estimated to be 1.088 million oz, which exceeds production guidance of 1.05 million oz. Underground recovered grade increased for a fifth consecutive year to 5.07 g/t.

“We will continue to focus on increasing cash margins through safe, predictable and profitable production” says Peter Steenkamp, CEO of Harmony.

Harmony will announce its operating and financial results for the year ended 30 June, 2017 on Thursday 17 August 2017, during a live presentation at the Hilton Hotel, Sandton, at 09h00 South African time.

In October last year Harmony Gold completed the acquisition of Hidden Valley mine in Papua New Guinea.

The Hidden Valley mine is an open pit gold and silver mine, jointly owned and managed as part of the joint venture between Harmony and Newcrest Mining.

The mine is situated in the highly prospective area of the Morobe province in Papua New Guinea, some 210 km northwest of Port Moresby.

The major gold and silver deposits of the Morobe goldfield and Hidden Valley are hosted in the Wau Graben.

The Hidden Valley-Kaveroi and Hamata pits, located approximately 6 km apart, are in operation.

Ore mined is also treated at the Hidden Valley processing plant.

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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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