Goldminer relives wave of ‘shocking’ events

Goldminer Saimoni Totoni at his home in Nasomo, Vatukoula after he was released from the Lautoka Hospital earlier this week. Mr Totoni holds a medal which he was awarded last year by the company for being the best miner from Philip Shaft at the Vatukoula Gold Mines. Picture: REPEKA NASIKO

WHEN goldminer Saimoni Totoni felt needle-like prickling in his legs while wading through knee-deep water in the underbelly of the Vatukoula Gold Mines, he knew something was wrong.
Instead of standing still, he decided to keep moving and that decision may have saved his life.
Mr Totoni and three other miners received a wave of electric shocks while working in the 18th level of the Philip Shaft on June 9.
“I felt water entering my gumboots and when it touched my skin, I felt like I was being pricked by small needles,” the 40-year-old miner claimed.
“We were at a place called the low point where water being pumped out usually collected before being drained out of the shaft. We walked through the water unaware that there was a live cable that was exposed and had charged the water.
“As we walked through, my assistant miner was ahead of me and I didn’t know he was going through the same thing.
“There was another pair ahead of us and they too had received electric shocks although we didn’t know it at the time.”
Mr Totoni claimed when he reached the edge of the water, he knew they could not turn around and get back to safety.
He claimed they trudged forward into the deeper parts of the mine, trying to find another exit.
“We walked for a while and stopped to rest because we started to get really weak.
“When we rested we had to lie down because by then our legs were numb.”
He claimed they lost track of time as they walked to the nearest communication point which was on Level 17.
“One of our group members vomited because of the effects of the electricity, we were walking on very weak legs.”

“I kept telling the boys that we could not stop and rest for too long because I knew that we wouldn’t be able to go any further.
“We reached the call bell and rang it 12 times — which is the signal that there was an injury.
“The shaft lift came right after when we gave them our location.”
Mr Totoni said the full brunt of the electric shocks hit him when he surfaced and was rushed to the Tavua Hospital.
“I felt a very strong pain in my chest and had to be taken to Lautoka and admitted at the Intensive Care Unit. I don’t remember much after that.”
A day after being released, Mr Totoni said he was still weak.
“I get tired very quickly if I’m on my feet for too long.
“I don’t know what would have happened if we didn’t encourage each other to keep going.”
Mr Totoni is still on sick leave while the other three miners have returned to work.
Permanent secretary for Lands and Mineral Resources Malakai Finau said a team from the Mineral Resources Department was in Vatukoula to investigate all of the issues that had been reported to them.
He said a report would be released once the inquiry ended.
Questions sent to Vatukoula Gold Mine Ltd last week about the events that transpired on Saturday, June 9 involving Mr Totoni and three others, remained unanswered when this edition went to press.

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