By ANDREW FANASIA and LESLEY SANGA
CARETAKER Mines and Energy minister Bradley Tovosia has defended recent decisions his ministry made on a number of mining applications.
And he says those decisions were made by the Mineral Board, not by him.
Tovosia was responding to accusations Axiom chief executive officer Ryan Mount made against him, yesterday.
“Mount’s accusations were baseless, false, and misleading,” Tovosia told reporters in a news conference.
“My ministry has a mineral board. And as minister, I am obliged to follow the advice and instructions of the board before I act on any matter,” he added.
“Law requires the board to deliberate on all applications and recommend to the minister to act.
“I cannot go against the board’s decision.”
Mount earlier accused Tovosia of issuing a Letter of Intent over San Jorge in Isabel to Bintan Mining when he already knew Axiom already has a pending application.
“Tovosia’s behaviour displays a disregard for the law and his conduct over the past year is one of the reasons Solomon Islands remained undeveloped,” Mount said.
He said Axiom had already filed a case in the High Court against the decision and Tovosia was one of the defendants.
But Tovosia said Mount’s action reflects his type of personality.
“Does he think he can do whatever he likes in this sovereign nation?
“Mount needs to know the minister does not unilaterally decide on the granting of mineral interest.
“There is a process of granting rights and this included supporting documents from the provincial government as well.”
In the case of San Jorge, Tovosia said the board had received representation from landowners.
“Landowners have been very vocal against giving any mineral interest or rights to Axiom.
“They had made their stance clear to the board.
“If landowners are supportive of Axiom and the government is going against their wishes, then that is wrong,” Tovosia said.
He added if Axiom is aggrieved by his and the board’s decision, the High Court is opened for them to file a claim.
“That’s what Mount should do rather than making false claims in the media.”
He said the government will always protect the rights of its people than giving their rights to a desperate investors like Mount.
Meanwhile, Tovosia said his recent overseas trip has nothing to do with this issue.
Mount had questioned the purpose and timing of the trip. Tovosia flew business class during the trip.
The Axiom CEO said upon Tovosia’s return, he immediately approved and signed a prospecting licence over the Kolosori land on 1 February.
Tovosia has not divulged details of the trip, only saying the trip was private and that he met all the cost of travelling.
“So even my private trip was being monitored by Mount?”