Mining scenarios

Fred Wesley | Friday, April 21, 2017
Like thousands of young men and women his age, Malakai Nabalarua has hopes and aspirations. He obviously yearns for a better future for himself and his young family.

It is to that end that he chooses to face work underground at the Vatukoula Gold Mine. It isn't a work environment for the faint hearted.

However, he puts food on the table, and aids in the mechanics of how his family live their daily lives. That ultimately matters.

All that could have ended though when a large rock reportedly hit his head while he was working underground at the mine. As our report on Page 5 today reveals, despite wearing head gear, the 23-year-old suffered serious head injuries. He was the latest employee of the gold mining company to sustain serious injuries while working underground. His wife Sereana Nasoko claimed the incident happened on Monday.

A rock fell behind him, hitting his helmet, she said.

In the process of taking action to save himself, he hit another rock, injuring his face and jaw.

He was rushed to the Lautoka Hospital.

While the family is still reeling from the shock surrounding his accident, Ms Nasoko said her husband was still in a lot of pain.

Now her husband and his fellow employees have been sent home to await a directive from the company and the Government. This latest incident comes in the wake of the death of Tekiata Teirei earlier this month, which the Fiji Mine Workers Union insists could have been avoided if safety procedures were followed. It claimed Mr Teirei's death was the 110th death recorded at the mine.

We welcome the decision by the Minister for Lands and Mineral Resources Faiyaz Koya for all underground operations at the Vatukoula Gold Mine to cease indefinitely. Mr Koya confirmed the closure was because they were carrying out an audit on the mine.

The audit, he said, began post the sink hole incident in which a miner died.

All underground staff, he said, had been called up and all underground operations stopped "because there have been some incidents that have occurred recently".

In the end, it was a matter of safety, he said, to allow the Mineral Resources Department team to carry out the audit. Fiji Mine Workers Union president Jovesa Sadreu is on record, suggesting an investigation had to be carried out on the series of accidents at the mine.

He claimed miners lives are at risk.

He has called for an investigation on how Mr Teirei died. He claimed there were a number of other accidents at the mine. The State's action is encouraging. Understandably workplaces should be safe to work in.

There may, however, be issues raised about this closure and the financial implications on staff members and their families. It goes without saying though that with proper processes, and systems in place, workers should be confident, and should be able to work in an environment that is safe for them.

Clearly any misconceptions, if there are any, should be put to rest by this audit.

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