This has been long time in the making as the nickel deposits were discovered way back in the 1950s and 60s.
More recently, Sumitomo of Japan were working on deposits in both Isabel and Choiseul provinces but were caught out by Axiom and the landowners for breaching the country’s important land banking provisions in the mining legislations and the High Court ruled that Sumitomo had too many tenements without bothering to move into mining.
But now, in a groundbreaking joint venture partnership with an international mining company, Axiom and the landowners of San Jorge, these nickel rich deposits will finally be harvested.
Axiom was granted the first ever mining lease for nickel in Solomon Islands in October 2018 – it took nearly a decade for the landowners and Axiom to get to this point.
The road was long and at times stormy with court cases against those now abiding by our laws and at times political interference in preventing this development.
But since they were granted the Mining Lease they have worked quickly to establish some initial mining operations to honour their promise of delivering Solomon Islands’ first ever shipment of nickel in the first half of 2019.
Axiom’s operating standards are the highest for any mining operations in Solomon Islands, taking a lot of it from the world-renowned Australian mining standards.
But equally important to Axiom and its CEO Ryan Mount is ensuring Axiom is respectful of the cultures and customs of Isabel.
“For it is in Isabel that we operate so it is the Isabel culture we must respect,” he said.
In announcing that the first commercial production will occur in the coming months, Mount said:
“I’m pleased to announce that the hard work of landowners, Axiom employees and the good people of the Ministry of Mines, Energy and Rural Electrification and Ministry of Environment, Disaster and Meteorology in the first shipment of nickel ore from Isabel to occur next month.
“This is truly a remarkable time for landowners, Isabel Province and all of Solomon Islands.
“With this first shipment we challenge all of those in the mining industry to lift your standards, especially as to safety, environmental protection and to ensure that you respect landowner’s rights – making sure that landowners will truly benefit from mining.”
It’s estimated that upon full capacity of production that Axiom’s San Jorge nickel deposit will be the biggest contributor to the nation’s economy.
Landowner Fr. Lot Bako said:
“We are so happy that this day has finally come for us landowners.
“We have had to fight against foreign companies in the courts and unfortunately sometimes we fight between ourselves, the landowners.
“But we landowners are now united to bring this nickel project to finally begin.
“We thank Axiom for its support and patience and also respecting our culture.
“We are happy also for the jobs we now have, which means we can pay for our children’s school fees and improve our living standard.”
– By Deli Oso