5 Feb 2007

Fiji mine could be sold to foreign investor

7:34 pm on 5 February 2007

Fiji's only gold mine could be sold to a foreign investor after the company turned down a deal offered to it by the interim government.

Officials from the military-backed administration and the Emperor Gold Mining Company met in Suva today to try and thrash out a way to keep the mine operating in Fiji.

The company shut down the Vatakoula mine on December 5th, the day of the coup, leading to the loss of 1,700 jobs.

Parmesh Chand, the CEO to Fiji's interim Prime Minister, said the government agreed to give the company a temporary exemption in its special mining lease to allow it to undertake a comprehensive and exhaustive exploration programme.

In return it wanted Emperor to set up a trust fund for workers, but the proposal was rejected.

"Anybody would naturally be disappointed because this concerns the livelihood of people, it concerns exports, it concerns foreign reserves."

He says the matter will have to go back to cabinet, whose main concern is the welfare of workers and the environment.

He says it's highly unlikely that the government would bid for the mine.