5 Sep 2007

Environmental concerns prompted by closure of Fiji goldmine

10:17 am on 5 September 2007

There are concerns in Fiji of a looming environmental disaster if the underground shafts at the Vatukoula gold mine become flooded to the top.

The concerns have been raised by the Department of the Environment which fears that dangerous chemicals contained in the water could be extremely hazardous to the local community and their surroundings.

The Fiji Times reports that the warning comes as the new owners of the mine, Westech Gold, shut down operations in the area because it could not purchase fuel to power its generators which drive the pumps to keep water out of the mine shafts.

Vatukoula residents have also been without power and water since last night.

The company is unable to buy fuel because the Fiji Revenue and Customs Authority has taken out a garnishee order freezing Westech's bank accounts because of alleged tax liabilities by the mine's previous owner amounting to 6-point-8 million US dollars.

A Westech engineer, John Pene, has confirmed that the Kayser, Phillips and Smiths shafts are now being flooded as the pumps keeping the water out are shut down.

The director of environment, Epeli Nasone, says it would be disastrous for the local community if water from the flooded shafts overflows on to the surface.