Blame it on the rain

Matasawa-I-Loma of Yanawai where students of other province used for swimming. Picture: SERAFINA SILATOGA

Does an evil spirit lurk in the rain-drenched Vanua Levu hills?

Not only was that the headline of a story in The Fiji Times in 1954, it was also a question that wrestled in people’s minds when Japanese-owned Bauxite Fiji Ltd gave up its mining venture in the wet Yanawai hills of Vanua Levu.

Continuous rain sealed the company’s doom after it spent a year establishing a camp site and processing mill.

The company decided in March to stop operations because of regular long spells of heavy rain which had dragged on for over a year.

But soon after the company made the decision and began dismantling machinery on site, the rain stopped unexpectedly.

The company claimed to have lost more than $3 million without even shipping a handful of bauxite to Japan for processing.

“The whole thing is uncanny – and the local people think so too,” The Fiji Times of January 2, 1974 noted.

A villager interviewed by this newspaper said the Yanawai area had a “tevoro” (ghost) which hated noise”.

The villager was adamant the tevoro forced the operation to close down because they disturbed the peace and quiet of its domain.

A gold mine at nearby Mount Kasi and a promising sawmilling project in the area closed as well because of the demon, the man claimed.

The Fiji Times visited the mine to report on the “mopping-up” operations and spoke to the company’s mechanical engineer and mine manager, Masayochi Nakamura.

Mr Nakamura said the company was unable to sell mining machinery in Fiji and therefore had to pack up and go back to Japan.

The Japanese-built ore carriers were later sold to a buyer in New Zealand while a Suva company bought the company’s brand new vehicles.

Although the weather changed, Mr Nakamura said this was “too late to reverse the company’s decision”.

“The decision to close operations has been made and we can’t go back on it, although the weather is a vast improvement from what it was last year,” he told The Fiji Times.

When asked about the tevoro theory claimed by locals, Mr Nakamura said “maybe”.

“Maybe. Maybe the tevoro of this area was angry with the sound of our machinery disturbing his peace,” said Mr Nakamura.

The Fiji Times reporter, Stan Ritova, was sent to the mine to investigate the closure and the tevoro story “I walked further into the mine headquarters. Nothing moved. The big building which had housed the alternators was only an empty shell,” the reporter said.

“The doors swung freely in the stiff breeze while rats scurried across the floor as they heard my footsteps.”

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