4 Sep 2007

Work halted at Fiji goldmine after company's accounts are frozen

8:41 am on 4 September 2007

All work to restart Fiji's Vatukoula gold mine has come to a halt only weeks after getting under way.

This follows the decision of the Fiji Customs and Revenue Authority two weeks ago to take out a garnishee order freezing all the bank accounts of Westech Limited which had recently signed an agreement to restart the mine.

Westech's director, Brian Wesson, has told the Fiji Times 150 employees have been informed that they could not continue with normal duties as non-critical equipment was shut down.

Only the water pumps to keep the Phillips Shaft dry are still working.

But Mr Wesson says there is enough fuel to operate the pumps only until today after which the shafts would be abandoned to flooding.

He says the garnishee order issued by the Fiji Revenue and Customs Authority means they cannot pay for anything and cannot bring fuel into the country.

Mr Wesson says this has put on the line the jobs of 150 workers who are feeling very demoralized.

The Fiji Revenue and Customs Authority is claiming that the former operators of the Vatukoula gold mine, the Emperor Gold Mining Company, has a tax liability going back to 1988 for which Westech is now responsible.