FORMER FIJI GOLD MINERS WIN $3 MILLION SETTLEMENT

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New Vatukoula mine owners to compensate for 2007 layoffs

SUVA, Fiji (Fijilive, Dec. 7, 2009) - The Fiji government today signed a deed of settlement under which Vatukoula gold mine owners Westech will contribute FJ$6 million [US$3 million] towards 800 workers laid off by previous owners Emperor Mines.

The announcement to the completion of the sale process was made between Emperor Mines Limited and Australian-owned Westech Gold Pty Limited.

Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum said there were numerous provisions made before the agreement and the government had regularised the deed which was now part of the condition for the transfer from Emperor to Westech.

"As part of the condition the government had said that there must be trust fund that needed to be set up," Sayed-Khaiyum said during a press conference this afternoon.

"Following the signing of the previous deeds, given the irregularities we wanted the deed sorted out before any contribution would have been made."

He said the government had made its contribution through social assistance of FJ$6,000 [US$3,000] and the signing of the deed meant that three months from today the company will contribute FJ$1.5 million [US$784,000] and thereafter FJ$1.125 million for the next four years.

"So in all we’re looking at FJ$6 million over the next five years," Sayed-Khaiyum added.

He said the money would go into a social assistance trust fund which will have representatives from the company, government and reps from the redundant workers.

"They will decide based on the purpose of the trust fund how that money should be spent, a lot of it obviously will be spent on the redundant workers. Some of it will also go into the environmental aspects of the mine areas itself.

"Government is indeed pleased that this company has brought about a new management, new owner of the mine that worked well with government to try and resolve the various differences."

The Attorney-General said that in turn, government had given various concessions toward the company due to its importance not only to the export market but also to the local community in the Vatukoula and Tavua areas.

"The concessions given to the company included fuel tax and export tax, five years from the signing date of the original Deed (2007) and fiscal duty and import excise tax for three years from May 14, 2009."

Sayed-Khaiyum said the development was going to be a boost for the people of Vatukoula, which came to a virtual standstill after Emperor closed down operations in 2007.

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