A land acquisition officer has dismissed claims AU Capital Mining Limited bribed landowners in Temotu to acquire its prospecting licence to seek minerals on their land.
AU Capital Mining, an Australia company, held two tenements under its prospecting licence – one Temotu and another in Choiseul.
Recently Iron Mountain Mining, a different company, obtained shares in AU Capital by signing an option agreement to acquire 50 percent stake.
This arrangement was done outside the Mines Ministry processes and is deemed illegal.
A spokesman for Nende Tribal Landowners, Stanley Bade, claimed AU Capital Mining Limited’s involvement in the process to acquire its prospecting licence was questionable.
“The procedures followed to acquire the letter of intent and the prospecting licences issued by the ministry raised a lot of questions.
“The processes were very dubious in nature and it showed out clearly in the tenement mapping,” Bade said.
But Cromuel Kokota, who carried out the land acquisition process, said the processes he followed are according to the Mines and Minerals Act.
“There is nothing dubious in the process,” he added.
The one time mines director said there have been proper awareness and hearings done with communities at Nende and the feedback was straight forward.
“No money was involved as alleged,” Kokoto said.
He explained what was given to tribal community leaders was just tokens and he was clear about that to the communities, and the mining company about the token of appreciation.
“If some of the landowners disagreed, they have the right to challenge it in court. But they also need to know that this is still prospecting; the company is not making any money yet.”
He clarified that the mapping of the earmarked tenement is something different.
“The marked tenements should be limited to the signed area, however what has appeared in the map is beyond and that is probably for the company’s interest in the future.
“The possibility with interest of the company moving to the eastern part of Nende is on the pipeline, but the fact is it’s only on the western part that has been acquired,” he said.
Kokoto said all throughout the awareness processes it has been made clear what roles the government, company and the stakeholders involve play.
“Nothing was hidden and the communities were not forced to sign with money given, it was made open for them to decide and that’s exactly what was done.
“There is nothing dubious about the whole process. It was done openly and with transparency.”
By BRADFORD THEONOMI