OPERATORS of Gold Ridge mine, Australian company St Barbara, has insisted it hasn’t pulled out of the country.
Instead, the company said it was forced to shut down operations at the Gold Ridge mine because of flood damage and subsequent security risks.
St Barbara's managing director Tim Lehany has told Radio Australia's Pacific Beat programme it doesn't mean operations have ended for good.
"We haven't walked out on the country, that's just simply not true, and we've not abandoned the mine," he said.
"We had no choice but to remove our employees from the mine site."
The mine recorded 500 milimetres of rainfall in just 24 hours when flooding hit the country last week.
Mr Lehany said the flooding limited access to the mine, making it too dangerous for workers to stay.
"When this started we had 200 people on site, so we completely lost access, the only way in or out was by helicopter and that was restricted due to weather conditions," he said.
"We had diminishing food and fuel supplies and a large number of people there.
"If anyone was seriously injured we had no way of [doing medivacs]."
But Prime Minister Gordon Darcy Lilo has accused St Barbara of walking out on the country.
He said he's disappointed with the way the situation has unfolded.
There has been speculation over the future of St Barbara's operations at Gold Ridge recently, with the company's share price plummeting.
But Mr Lehany said the decision to suspend operations was based purely around staff safety.
He said the flooding had also led to security concerns.
"We also had a number of random acts of violence and vandalism, and we can only see that escalating," he said.
"Given the situation on the ground in Honiara, we were certain that we could not rely on external assistance to enforce law and order and provide security.
"So on that assessment people were at a significant safety risk and we had to remove them from the mine."
Mr Lehany said two vehicles were stoned and there had been a number of incursions into the site by illegal miners.
And there are fears disgruntled landowners may use the situation as an opportunity to loot from the mine.
Australian police to help maintain security
Australian Federal Police have now been deployed, at the request of the national government, to help local police maintain security at the site.
Mr Lehany said he wants to get staff back to the mine to make assessments on what needs to be done to recommence operations.
But he's refusing to guarantee the long term future of St Barbara's operations there.
"I'm not dismissing anything. All I am saying to you is that we have not pulled out of the country," he said.
Prime Minister Darcy said it's essential that the mine is kept secured because the assets at Gold Ridge belong to the government.