Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Gold mine is safe, says operator - theSun

Gold mine is safe, says operator
Llew-Ann Phang and James Hyams

newsdesk@thesundaily.com

RAUB Australian Gold Mining (RAGM) has complied with the stringent standards set by government agencies like the Department of Environment, and Land and Mines Department, that even schoolchildren visit it.

RAGM owner, Peninsular Gold chairman and chief executive director Datuk Seri Andrew Kam said RAGM frequently receives requests from the community, including schools, to visit the mine.

"We encourage such visits. They show that we are transparent about our operations and which we believe to be a further demonstration of the community’s support for our project," he said.

RAGM’s environmental manager, Gayathri Indran, said the company has gone out of its way to communicate to the local residents about its operations, how safe they are and how they are subject to monitoring tests by the relevant government agencies.

An employee of the mine testing the chemical level of a tailings solution
obtained from the mine.
"However, it is only a minority which refuses to accept this. We’ve even gone to meet them at the height of the issue last year when we were met with complaints of smoke and noise," she said.

"I gave them my contact details so they can call me the next time they saw smoke or any kind of emission from the mine but I’ve received no calls since."

During a recent visit, RAGM technical chief operating officer Laurie Mann said there was nothing special about the way the mine operates.

"It’s a standard run-of-the-ill carbon-in-leach (CIL) plant. If there is something special about it, it’s the green all around it,"he said.

He said the levels of reagent and chemicals like cyanide are at such low levels that they cannot be precisely measured.

"We maintain the water at pH levels and never allow neutralising of the water in which the sludge is mixed with cyanide, hydrogen peroxide, hydrochloric acid, carbon and liquid oxygen," Mann said.

He said the amount of cyanide used in the mine does not present a danger to humans or the environment and monitors are in place to set off alarms should a leak take place.

"We’re not saying it is not dangerous. It’s about how you use it. We’re happy to show people around because there is nothing special about this plant at all," he said. "Some people somewhere are making a lot of effort to stir up something."

Mann explained RAGM had not ratified the International Cyanide Management Code (ICMC), to apply new standards since ICMC "evolves with time".

RAGM says it is committed to being a signatory to the ICMC in about four to five years but, in the mean time, it will continue to comply with international standards for its operations as they are "efficient" and it is "company policy".

The company claims the Department of Environment had camped out eight days at the site to ensure that its operations were not affecting the air quality and jeopardising the health of the surrounding neighbourhood.

"There is no benefit in making ourselves liable. Why would we dump in that kind of money (investment) to cause any trouble? We are a part of the community," said an RAGM employee, who requested anonymity

"We have workers from here and we want a harmonious life not just for us but for the people here and we want everything to be safe."

The plant, which runs round the clock, is manned by 180 employees on three shifts. Static monitors stationed in various locations around the CIL plant are calibrated every two months (instead of the requirement of six months) by an independent company to ensure that harmful levels of chemicals are not emitted.

The pH level of the mix in CIL tanks is tested by employees at a frequency of four to five times each shift, Mann said.

Process used in mines around the world

THE carbon in leach (CIL) and cyanide mining process is used in gold mines throughout the world, including Stawell Gold Mine in Australia, Martha Gold Mine in New Zealand, and Campbell Gold Mine in Canada.

At all of these mines, the CIL facility is located between 555m and 1.17km from the nearest residential zone. Peninsula Gold, the company that owns RAGM, is listed as a company from Jersey where companies pay limited, if any, tax.

RAGM’s main shareholder at 38.3% is Datuk Seri Andrew Kam whose father, Kam Woon Wah, is a veteran of the Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA).

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