Tag Archives: Vatukoula Gold Mines

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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Few families remain in Fiji mining town

A view of neighbouring houses from Maria's residence at Loloma settlement in Vatukoula. Picture: BALJEET SINGH

A view of neighbouring houses from Maria’s residence at Loloma settlement in Vatukoula. Picture: BALJEET SINGH

Litia Mathewsell | The Fiji Times

FOR residents both past and present, Vatukoula retains childhood memories and the awakening of youth. Its layout was unorthodox, with several communities set apart by ethnic makeup and varying privileges but closely bound by a maze of narrow roads and social activities.

Those who grew up during the area’s booming days included Antonio Elaisa, a retired Human Resources training officer for the Fiji Sugar Corporation.

“I was three years old when I came to Fiji from the island (Rotuma), when my mum passed away,” the Lautoka resident related.

“I was bought up by foster parents, Jioje and Keponi. My foster mum was my mother’s twin sister and we stayed in Vatukoula in the 50s and 60s.”

Retaining cultural practices

Antonio noted that despite the distance from Rotuma, their traditional customs remained, still intact and practised through ceremonial formalities.

“The Rotuman community also held functions, especially by our elders. Most of us came from Rotuma and stayed in Vatukoula because we had relatives working there.”

These sentiments were echoed by Maria Vuan, a retired Nilsen College teacher who has lived in the area for over 20 years.

“This place was really a stepping stone for many,” she said.

Though she didn’t grow up in the area, she would become part of its vibrant communities through her husband, Sunia Albert, who worked at the mines and moved there in 1987.

As noted in the 1977 publication, Exiles and Migrants in Oceania, by Michael Lieber, Vatukoula had the highest percentage of expanded households of any of the Rotuman enclaves it studied. This was particularly due to a traditional obligation of well-off families looking after less privileged relatives, and this practice was prevalent in Vatukoula because of the high employment it afforded Rotumans who settled in Fiji.

The 50s and 60s

Antonio attended the Vatukoula Fijian Government School from Class One to eight and remembers taking a ten to 15-minute walk to school from Loloma — a settlement of mostly Rotuman families — with his cousins and friends.

“We would go to a lady named Mary Lala, who sold Indian sweets under a mango tree,” he recalled.

“At the time, the community was very close in Loloma, Dolphins and Vunisinu. There were many social activities too, especially for the church, as many of the Rotumans were Catholic, so we would get together for services on the weekends.”

The Emperor Theatre in Korowere was also a popular fixture, and regularly attracted a crowd of movie goers to its double-storey complex along Emperor Avenue, where supermarkets and grocery stores were also located.

“We didn’t have DVDs back then, so the movies were shown through reels. Admission to the movies was about 20 or 50 cents, very cheap. And we’d have movies shown in the morning, midday and in the afternoon. We just had three sessions in a day and would walk to Korowere.

“We didn’t go to Tavua because of transport problems. Buses were organised for businesses but there weren’t any daily runs otherwise. So we would all walk from our various communities to Korowere. There was a bakery owned by a Chinese businessman named Fong Lee, and a taxi base was also there. Good businesses were going on. But now the place is different.”

Greener pastures

“Vatukoula was very much prosperous in terms of business, in terms of the mining activities. It was really going very well and together with that, I could see the boom in businesses.”

As charming as Vatukoula was for Antonio, the struggles of being raised in a large household prompted his resolve to find his own path for the future.

“Sometimes I didn’t take lunch to school. It was a struggle. I set my goal to be well educated and to not have any second thoughts, but to focus on my future, and to get out of Vatukoula,” he said, noting that despite the prosperity, the mining town had limited work opportunities.

“I could see that my other friends had already proceeded to higher education and said they couldn’t come back to Vatukoula or they would be sent underground for casual works in the mines.”

Antonio managed to study afield at the University of the South Pacific in Suva, with a government scholarship and retains fond memories of growing up in the charming mining town, where he still has a few resident relatives.

Rotuman assertiveness

As studies and publications noted, the Rotumans of Vatukoula did not go without their share of challenges. One of these was the community’s insistence of retaining independence and control of their own affairs, which clashed with the rules of the mining companies. As cited by author Michael Lieber in Exiles and Migrants in Oceania, houses were symbolic to Rotuman social status and members of their community once approached a mining welfare office to request that their minister be allocated a house better than merited, which clashed with the mine management rules of how homes were assigned.

The Rotumans also ran their own mess hall and were noted as the only community in Vatukoula to take care of their own food, as a Chinese caterer oversaw the part-European and European mess, while the Fijian mess was taken care of by the mining company.

“The advantage enjoyed by Rotumans in their arrangement lies not only in profits but also in the capacity to allocate jobs within the mess to Rotumans,” it was noted.

The first Rotuman worker at Vatukoula was a man named Tafaki, who joined the mine in 1939 and was recognised as a headman. Following him, the Rotuman community elected an electrician named Riamkau as headman.

“In a short time he had gained a commitment from the company for better housing, but his aggressive manner also generated some antagonism within the community. Then chief Tausia, one of the seven paramount chiefs from Rotuma, visited Vatukoula in 1950 and appointed another man, Vai, as ‘headman’.”

Vai remained headman until he died in 1960, although his predecessor, Riamkau, remained an influential member of the community during Vai’s leadership and even put together a committee that compromised of one man of chiefly decent from each Rotuman district. They held monthly meetings.

“Interestingly, the resultant structure very nearly duplicated the social structure on Rotuma,” Lieber noted.

“Thus the ‘headman’ in Vatukoula put in a very similar position to the district officer on Rotuma, and the committee corresponded to the Council of Chiefs. Even the monthly meetings, which rotated among committee members’ households, paralleled the Rotuman custom of rotating host districts.”

Riamkau was re-elected leader after Vai’s death, though the committee passed a motion for the headman’s term to be limited to two years.


“The community has been close but when you look at it, it has really depended on the kind of managers we used to have,” Maria said.

“Some managers before were very easy, some were strict and managed to control the drunkards in the area.”

One of the former regulations she noted included the eviction of a whole family if a member of their household damaged property or stole from other homes.

“That kind of eased off the rowdiness of the drunkards. We only had one or two cases of when that happened, because they would worry that no matter where they were, if they got into trouble, then their whole family was put out. And it was good, because it eased off the rowdiness and danger.”

Mine managers differed in character, with some taking a more avid interest in the affairs of Vatukoula’s community, while others were more centred on production.

“Some came in and both cared for the community, as well as the production,” she said.

Likewise, the characters of those regarded as Rotuman leaders have also varied, though they have played pivotal roles of overseeing their people outside the traditional frameworks of Rotuman villages.

“Even though Rotumans are now everywhere, in Loloma, Nasivi and at Low-Cost, we still have what we call our area leader, similar to the village set-up. So whatever happens, we still do things together,” Maria noted.

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Vatukoula Gold Mines Says Second Tranche Of Zhongrun Fund Approved

Rowena Harris-Doughty | Alliance News

Vatukoula Gold Mines PLC said Monday that the second tranche of funding, as part of the investment agreement with Zhongrun International Mining Co Ltd, has been approved.

Earlier this month, Zhongrun had informed the company that the second tranche of USD20 million of secured loan notes was awaiting the approval the State Administration of Foreign Exchange of the People’s Republic of China.

The AIM-listed gold producer focused on Fiji, said Monday that the approval has now been granted, and it has agreed with Zhongrun to vary the terms of the loan notes, to match the cashflow requirements of the operations at the Vatukoula Gold Mine in Fiji.

It said the schedule of payments from Zhongrun will occur in three tranches, with the first received by no later than the end of April and the last in June. Each tranche will be no less than USD4 million and will total USD20 million, the company said.

“Management has assessed the effect of the historical delays in financing and the change in the delivery dates of the Loan Notes and has identified that as a result the company will need to revise its production guidance for the financial year ending August 2014 to approximately 40,000 ounces,” the firm said in a statement.

Shares in Vatukoula were trading 3.4% lower Monday afternoon at 6.45 pence per share.

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