History Of Exploration And Mining In Fiji
Gold was first reported in Fiji by prospector Charles Gurney in 1868 but it was not until 1932 that mining was firmly established with the opening of the Mount Kasi Mine at Yanawai on Vanua Levu. The mine operated until 1946 producing an estimated 1,803 kg of gold.
The early 1930ís also saw the discovery of gold along the Nasivi River at Vatukoula and the setting up of a number of mining ventures that has over the years eventually consolidated into the now well known and regarded Emperor Gold Mining Co. Ltd. Mining has continued unabated at Vatukoula since then and has resulted in the production of over 180,000 kg of gold and 63,000 kg of silver over its mining history. The mine still produces upwards of 100,000 oz of gold annually and Emperor has embarked on an extensive exploration programme to acquire additional reserves within the mine lease. The mine recently celebrated 70 years of operations at Vatukoula.
Following extensive exploration at the old mine site and adjacent areas over a number of years, the Mt Kasi Mine reopened in 1996. Over its brief period of operation from early 1996 until mid-1998, the mine, operated by Pacific Islands Gold, produced a total of 1,691 kg of gold and 122 kg of silver. Financial difficulties, excaberated by falling gold prices were cited as the main contributors to early closure of the mine.
Despite Fijiís small size, it has a number of significant gold and copper prospects. Numerous smaller deposits of bauxite, base metals and industrial minerals also occur. These prospects and mineral occurrences (over100 in number on Viti Levu alone) exemplify Fijiís considerable mineral potential and diverse geology.
History Of Mining Legislation
The history of mining legislation in Fiji dates back to 1908 when the first Mining Ordinance was enacted to facilitate and regulate mineral sector developments. The first Mining Ordinance granted prospectors and miners the security of tenure and exclusive exploration and exploitation rights that they sought, while simultaneously protecting the proprietary rights of the landowners, protecting the interests of the public, and ensuring that mineral lands were not tied up in the hands of speculators.
Between 1908 and 1965 the Mining Ordinance had been updated and expanded in scope 5 times. The changes made in 1965 transferred the administrative control over mineral resources from the former statutory Mining Board to the Department of Mines (now Mineral Resources Department) under the administrative control of the Director of Mines. The Mining Act currently in use was produced in 1978, with revisions to the Regulations made in 1985, although Mineral Resources Department is once again in the process of revising the regulations to ensure compatibility with more recent Government policies.
The primary aim of Fiji's mining legislation is to facilitate and regulate the exploitation of Fiji's mineral resources by controlling the activities of prospectors and miners to ensure that, Fiji's mineral resources are exploited in an efficient manner, in the best interests of the community as a whole. Secondly, the mining legislation aims to establish and preserve a suitable climate for mineral exploitation by affording prospectors and miners security of tenure for sufficient periods as to enable them adequately to explore and exploit the areas held by them. Thirdly, it aims to provide that adequate compensation be paid to landowners whose land, from which their livelihood is derived, is adversely affected by mining or prospecting operations.
Government has commenced a major review of the mining legislation that is hoped to be completed by end 2004. The review is all encompassing and aimed at making Fiji more competitive both regionally and internationally. In addition the review would enable incorporation of modern concepts with regard to occupational health and safety in the industry, more transparent tenement approval process and one based on a block or graticular system; and be in line with newer legislation dealing with environmental matters.
Mining & Exploration today
Emperor Gold Mines:
Emperor Mines Limited (www.emperor.com.au). Emperor have extracted around 6.5 million ounces of gold from its three Mining Leases at Vatukoula (Special Mining Lease 54, 55, 56) since operations commenced in 1933. The mine, located approximately 60 km NE of Nadi, on the island of Viti Levu is situated along the margins of the caldera of the Tavua Volcano. Besides the three mining tenements Emperor holds 100% of Special Prospecting Licences 1201, 1283, 1296, 1344, 1360, 1411, and 1418. In addition, Emperor has submitted applications for Special Prospecting Licence CX626 situated south of and adjacent to SPL 1411 on the island of Vanua Levu.
Emperor is a significant contributor to the local and national economy and is one of the largest employers with a workforce of around 2,100.
Emperor currently processes close to 600,000 tpa of ore from the mining leases. The operations comprise 3 shaft accesses (Philip, Smith and Cayzer shafts), and a decline (Emperor Decline). These accesses permit the exploitation of a multitude of ore bodies within the mining leases area.
Emperor has initiated commencing 2002 a major development strategy that aims to increase annual mine output by 40% over the next 3 years to 800,000 tonnes (mill capacity) and gold production by some 35% to approximately 180,000 ounces.
This will be achieved as through a significant increase in surface drilling and underground development and exploration program and the upgrade of infrastructure and underground vehicle fleet.. The plan includes the concept of inter-connecting all the underground workings areas (the "Ring Road" concept) to create operational efficiencies and a greater ability to access ore bodies around Emperorís large Vatukoula goldfield. Infrastructure upgrade also include the sinking of additional ventilation shafts to enable access to deeper mine workings.
Mt. Kasi Gold Mine:
The Mt Kasi operation as indicated earlier closed in mid-1998 due to financial constraints and is presently on care and maintenance. The current tenement holders, Burdekin Pacific (www.burdekinpacific.com.au) are presently undertaking a programme to upgrade resources prior to undertaking feasibility studies in respect of mine reopening.
There are presently 38 exploration and mining tenements active in Fiji covering an area of approximately 401,000 ha. Exploration is being undertaken for a broad number of commodities including precious metals (gold and silver), bauxite, base metals (copper-lead-zinc), marble and other industrial minerals. Exploration investment was at an all time low in 2000in response to low international gold prices and political instability at home. The return to an elected government and rise in gold prices has meant a modest rise in exploration expenditure.
Gold and Silver Production (1990-2003), all EGM except 1996-98 when
Mt Kasi in production.
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