Tag Archives: Vatukoula Gold Mines

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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Drilling programs to increase mining activity in Fiji

Aqela Susu | The Fiji Times | March 14, 2018

Minister for Lands and Mineral Resources Faiyaz Koya says five extensive drilling programs have been proposed by local mining companies which will increase exploration activities.

In his ministerial statement to Parliament on Monday, Mr Koya confirmed the five companies are Thunderstruck Company in Serua, Vatukoula Gold Mines Ltd in Vatukoula, Dome Mines on Ono Island in Kadavu, Kalo Exploration in Cirianiu and Matai Holdings Ltd at Udu Point on Vanua Levu.

“The Vatukoula Gold Mines Limited (VGML), our major gold-mining company, will continue to undertake mining exploration activities to ensure minable resources are available for its mining operation,” he said.

“The iron sand mining project for Ba delta is at its development state as the tenement holder Amex Resources Limited is currently developing its loading port facility in Lautoka at a total investment of $30 million (USD).

“Lion One Limited, as the holder of Tuvatu Mining lease, is also at its developing stages with late 2018 as a proposed date of production. The company is focusing on stabilising the site to set up its mine mill and is working with the ministry as well as other respective stakeholders to ensure mining commences as agreed.”

Mr Koya said the bauxite mining in the Northern Division was progressing well and in a sustainable fashion.

He also confirmed that mining operations at Nawailevu on Vanua Levu have ceased because of the exhaustion of bauxite ore on site.

“This mining licence to XINFA Aurum is currently under rehabilitation and is monitored by the ministry on a monthly basis.”

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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 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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Five mining leases approved by Fiji government

Director of Mineral Resources Malakai Finau

Director of Mineral Resources Malakai Finau

Watisoni Butabua | Fiji Village

Five mining leases have been approved by government.

Director of Mineral Resources Malakai Finau says out of the five, only two are currently operating at the moment and that is the Bua bauxite mine and the Vatukoula Gold mine.

Finau says more than 1 million tonnes of bauxite have been exported so far for Nawailevu.

He says in terms of royalty the department has collected approximately $1.2 million.

He says more than 100 workers have been employed by Aurum Exploration Limited.

The Director for Mineral Resources for the Vatukoula Gold Mine, they have exported about 39 thousand ounce of gold last year.

Finau says they expect similar amounts this year.

He says about 1000 people are currently employed by Vatukoula Gold Mine.

He also says that government has granted mining lease to Canadian Lion One Metals Limited for the Tuvatu Gold mine in Nadi.

Finau says they are in the construction period at the moment.

He says two other mining leases have also been granted to Asia Pacific Resources Limited for the Wainivesi Gold mine in Korovou, Tailevu and Amex Resources Limited for Iron sand mine at the Ba River.

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