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Gold poaching halts Aurora operations

Illegal grabbing of farms and natural resources in Zimbabwe has been emulated in Indonesia where peasants are poaching gold from at least one Australian mining company.

During 1999 there were increased incursions by illegal miners into operating open cast mines at the Mt Muro operation of Perth-based Aurora Gold Limited.

In its annual report, the company reported that, at times, operations had to cease as hundreds of illegal miners entered the pits to steal freshly blasted high-grade ore.

In late June, the Bantian-Batu Tembak mining complex was closed by a group with land rights claims.

Negotiations with this group proved difficult and in mid-July, before the BBT complex could be reopened, another group which claimed outstanding land compensation from pre-Aurora activities also closed off access to the Permata-Hulubai (PBH) complex.

The loss of access to BBT and PBH left the Kerikil complex as the only pits providing ore to the processing plant, supplemented by low-grade stockpile material.

In late September, however, a roadblock on the Kerikil haul road by unrepresentative protesters, agitated by a local non-government organisation, stopped company access to the Kerikil pits.

By the end of October, the compensation claims being used to justify the Kerikil roadblock were proved false, and pressure from the local community, which did not support the disruption, forced the opening of the blockade.

However, periodic illegal mining in the Kerikil pits and occupations of the Serujan East pit by other land rights and compensation claimants continued to limit mining productivity.

In spite of these difficulties, the Mt Muro operation produced 224,085 gold equivalent ounces from 1,564,994 tonnes of ore milled.

Aurora reported that ore production was 5 per cent up on budget, while the total mining material movement was only 8 per cent below budget.

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