A massive slip at the Macraes mine on Saturday is not
expected to shorten the projected life of the mine, and gold
extraction will continue using stockpiled ore.
That was the assurance from Oceana Gold New Zealand officials
yesterday after the slip closed down the country's largest
gold mine. The site includes the pit, an underground mine and
a processing plant.
About 20 underground staff were flown out by helicopter
because the slip cut off haul road access. No-one was hurt.
The wall of the pit collapsed and a huge volume of rock slid
into the pit, between Palmerston and Ranfurly, about 100km
from Dunedin. The slip did not block the underground portal.
Oceana Gold New Zealand officials said a section of the west
wall failed after heavy rainfall.
''The wall was being continuously monitored and there were no
personnel working in the open pit at the time of the
failure,'' company officials said.
The underground mine was unaffected.
Asked about concerns the scale of the slip could shorten the
mine's life, Oceana Gold Corporation investor relations
manager Sam Pazuki, of Toronto, said production would
continue, as scheduled, until 2017. He expected ''minimal
impact on near-term production'', because of stockpiled ore.
''We're not expecting any long-term impact on the operation
but we're still assessing [details of the slip],'' he said.
Asked if the latest slip was bigger than the slip of January
5 last year, he said details were still being assessed.
On that occasion, gold extraction also continued using
stockpiled ore and it took about two weeks to re-establish
road access to the affected mine area.
Asked if multimillion-dollar equipment, such as a digger and
a truck, may have been caught under the fallen rock, Mr
Pazuki said that was not the case and none of the firm's
heavy moving gear had been damaged.
Extensive safety planning was undertaken by Oceana Gold and
advanced monitoring equipment was in place in detect any rock
movement on site, he said.
Oceana Gold officials said the haul road was expected to be
repaired over the next few days.
The firm was ''monitoring the movement, as we always do,''
Herbert-based Central South Island Helicopters Ltd chief
pilot John Oakes said a McDonnell Douglas 520 helicopter,
piloted by his brother, Gary Oakes, had flown workers from
the pit after being alerted by Oceana Gold.
The operation had gone ''like clockwork'', with the staff
flown out four at a time.
''I'm very pleased because that's what we trained for,'' Mr
A WorkSafe New Zealand official said an inspector had been
sent to the mine. It was not known at this stage how long any
investigation would take.