$300m In 10 Years With More To Go: Vatukoula Gold Mines

At Vatukoula Gold Mines, The Bottom Line Is The Employees Are More On The Winning Side Of The Entire Operation, Than Shareholders And Investors
17 Sep 2022 13:00
$300m In 10 Years With More To Go: Vatukoula Gold Mines
Putting their hands together with Vatuykoula Gold Mines Limited’s new General manager, Jiangwu Li, are Onisimo Fonmanu, Saten Singh, Neel Ratnam and Edwin Bhurrah. Photo: Frederica Elbourne

Many a time, after coming out of my mining jaunts, I am met with a curiously innocent question, “Did you see any gold?”

Many times, my response was in the affirmative.

Recently, I learnt, that in such line of innocent yet curious questioning, lies the enquirer’s notion that the gold I sighted was the likes of what you see in the movies, nuggets, gold bars, that sort of magic that is depicted from images of the old days where panning was the means of discovery. As op­posed to the black rock with speckled glitter that initially may suggest some existence of gold.

But the reality, in the age of advanc­ing technology, is far from any of that.

While there is gold, a thorough and rigorous process behind its extraction, needs as better an appreciation, as the final product.

In an eventful, day-long, and hands-on lesson on Mining 101, I was to learn of the necessary and delicate intricacies behind gold production, where from its extracted ore-state, it goes through the mill – washing, grinding, and pulver­ized to a certain degree, before labora­tory tests are carried out to determine the quality of gold.

And the truth is, in the case of the country’s oldest operating gold mine, Vatukoula Gold Mines Pte Limited, a mere few grams of gold are dis-covered for every 1000 tonnes of extracted ore.

The obvious answer to the question of why continue the arduous task of min­ing, lies in the passion and confidence for the job.

“It’s not like when you build a biscuit factory, which is stationary, with tar­gets that a good run of 10 years will enable you to expand a certain area of the factory, and maybe years down the line, build on an additional mining,” my mentor of the day, a seasoned fe­male who has lived and breathed Vatu­koula Gold Mines, said.

“Mining is not the same, because while you may find a lode, it may not extend the length you had planned for, meaning you have to pack up camp (“the factory”) and move on to another site, in pursuit of gold.

“That is the cycle of mining,”

Further to this is the consideration of whether each identified site is worth its weight in gold, for commercial rea­sons.

Another old hand likened the entire business to a gamble.

Where confidence is good, the stakes are high, if not higher.

Employees On The Winning Side of Gold Production

At Vatukoula Gold Mines, the bottom line is the employees are more on the winning side of the entire operation, than shareholders and investors.

Because while shareholders and in­vestors are pumping in money, the re­turns are yet to be realized.

And realized soon enough, it will.

There is confidence and concerted effort in the company’s recently announced ambitious multi-million-dol­lar capital project.

As new leadership takes shape behind the newly appointed general manager, Li Jiangwu, with the full backing of board chairman, Dr Ian He, the duo have garnered management support for their dead-set vision to return Vatukoula Gold Mines to its former glory.

It’s a success story waiting to unfold – plus or minus a few challenges.

The duo exudes a dynamic confidence where one is almost certain – at least for the tenure of their term – that things are shaping up for the better at the 85-year old mine.

Everything from improving the poor working culture of absenteeism, to modernizing the aging infrastructure, can expect an overhaul of sorts.

And why not.

Since the took over of the Vatukoula Gold Mines in 2014, at least – over $300 million have been invested – in the past 10 years, at the mines.

That sum does not include costs as­sociated with its soon to be executed multi-million-dollar capital projects, for a mine that employs 1400 people.

Within the first three months of set­tling in, Mr Li has identified certain needs that the mines must implement.

A word from the board

Board chairman, Dr Ian He holds a doctorate in Mineral Process Engineering from UBC, Canada arrived in the country in January, 2022 after the departure of the then General Man­ager, Dr Yi Huang.

Dr Ian He the visionary chairman who has personally arrived to oversee and ensure the bigger plan is achieved, a certain quiet confidence surrounds his aura.

“The Chinese are not the only owners of the mines,” he told SunBiz in an ex­clusive interview.

While there is a controlling share­holder, the company must also ac-count to almost 2000 minority share­holders out of the United Kingdom.

It hasn’t, but its two year outlay of capital projects, is expected to deliver and dispel any doomsday suggestion.


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