POLICE say they arrested 12 people at Gold Ridge mine site in central Guadalcanal since Tuesday in relation to the law and order problem in the area.
The escalation of lawlessness at the site in the past few days has resulted in the evacuation of the Gold Ridge Mining Limited’s (GRML) expatriate staff.
Acting assistant police commissioner of the national capital, Gabriel Manelusi, confirmed the number of arrests yesterday.
Mr Manelusi said the suspects are in police custody.
“These suspects are believed to be involved in the looting of properties at the site,” he said.
He added some of those arrested are believed to be employees of Gold Ridge.
Mr Manelusi said police have now established their presence at the mine site will deal with anyone who plans to cause further problem.
He said officers on the mine site are members of the highly trained Police Response Team (PRT).
“They (police) will be at the site to ensure everything is under control and to continue to review the law and order situation in the area.”
Mr Manelusi appealed to landowners to respect the law.
“Taking things in our own hands will not bring any good for us or our country, but only tarnish our image to the world.
“We must say no to crime in order for our country to move forward.
“We must not think of ourselves but think for our future because what we did today will not only affect us but will also affect our future generations,” Mr Manelusi added.
The deepening law and order problem in the area resulted in GRML evacuating its entire expatriate staff to Honiara since Tuesday.
The workers, including Gold Ridge Mining Ltd (GRML) general manager Stean Barrie, were sheltered at Pacific Casino Hotel, awaiting their flights back to Australia.
It’s believed some have left to Australia yesterday.
In a statement issued Wednesday night, St Barbara’s managing director and chief executive Bob Vassie said:
“GRML has safely withdrawn all personnel from its Gold Ridge mine following a serious escalation in security and associated safety concerns.
“The company is liaising with local authorities.
“Once the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force is able to confirm that security has been re-established at Gold Ridge, a return to site will be assessed.”
Operations at Gold Ridge were suspended in April this year due to torrential rainfall and ensuing flooding.
Mr Vassie said the company has been unable to resume production due to a number of factors beyond its control, including the loss of stable bridge access across the Tinahulu River on the public road to site, and the continued presence of large numbers of illegal miners camped in the open pit mining areas.
He said since returning to site in June, the company has focused on site stabilisation works and lowering the water levels in the tailings storage facility.
By STEPHEN DI’ISANGO