DURING the past 10 weeks, St. Barbara Mining Company spent $42 million on salaries alone without any single return.
The general manager of Gold Ridge Mine, Stean Barrie, revealed this during a meeting with company workers yesterday at the Don Bosco Technical Institute, Henderson.
Mr Barrie along with the St. Barbara’s country advisor, John Kaimarama met with the local employees to update them of the situation.
The Gold Ridge Mining Limited boss said St. Barbara as a company proved its commitment by continuing to keep all its employees on salaries, without any single cent in return during the past 10 weeks.
“The St. Barbara Board of Directors decided to keep all GRML employees on full pay for the past 10 weeks, which costs the company $42million.
“This is a commitment and we will continue to honor it,” Mr Barrie told employees.
“I would also like to thank every employee for your commitment during the past 10 weeks which was not easy for all of us, however your support and understanding has been the catalyst that enabled our return to continue our investment in your country,” he added.
Mr Barrie also stated that the decision to shut down the mine was measured against other factors, including the rise of water level at the tailing to over 300 millimeters in just 4 days.
The GRML boss said the cut-off of the Tinahula River Bridge meant no more fuel to the plant site, no food for the staff on site and no employees going in and out of the site.
“The safety of you employees and that of your family members remains the priority at that time,” he said.
“This has caused the management using available information to make a decision.
“But after intense and vigorous discussions with the Government through the Technical Working Group (TWG), we managed to reach some positive conclusions, paving way for our return and recommencement of the mine.”
Mr Barrie further updated the employees about some of the key risks the company is facing as it works on its stabilization plan.
“The eminent risks include stabilisation of the plant site, proper management of the tailing, disposing of explosives and the unfixed Tinahula bridge, which we are currently working with the government to reconstruct it,” he said.
“Our next step is to work with employees with skills and knowledge in a structured way to enable each employee has something to do whilst we work on the stabilization plan.”
To confirm this, the general manager requested all supervisors to report to the site today to work with managers to draw a roster for all department employees.
This was welcomed by employees and they cheered after the GM made this announcement.
“I’m pleased that operations will resume,” an employee said.
“Many of us are confused and thought the company might not return and stop paying us because this is our only source of income since the government hasn’t paid our royalties,” he added.
Meanwhile, Rodrick Misikona, another employee reminded the government to respect the Gold Ridge project.
“Government should respect GRML, landowners and employees,” he said.
“Please keep politics away from GRML and consider the livelihood of us employees as important.
“Our salaries enabled us to meet family needs including school fees. It is our only source of income,” Mr Misikona said.
And Mr Barrie further reminded employees that the situation they faced is unique and challenging, but they are learning and moving forward.
“Please bear with us because the situation is unique, therefore your understanding and support is needed during the process of stabilizing the situation”.
Mr Barrie also took time to answer questions from employees.
Amongst the questions raised are redundancy and other employment issues.
On redundancy, he told the employees that redundancy is not in their stabilisation plan as yet but once the time comes for redundancy, GRML will ensure that it is done in accordance with the laws of this land.
“It has to be a win-win situation and natural justice must take its course. But let me assure you once again that you will continue to be on the company pay-roll, until a review is necessary,” he said.
“On other employments issues, we will ensure everything is done within the boundaries of the laws of Solomon Islands and that is our commitment.”
At the same time, Dick Douglas, Chairman of the Gold Ridge Landowners Council also spoke during the meeting.
“I’m proud of you employees and management for your commitment and endurance,” Mr Douglas said.
He told the employees that the return of the company expatriate staff did not come easy, and involves intense negotiations and meetings.
“Dealing with the government was very difficult, but here we are, launching another new chapter,” he said.
Chairman of the Employees Working Committee, Dr Gabriel Salini thanked all employees for their time, patience and understanding during the past 10 weeks.
“I know it was not easy for all of us but I acknowledge every effort rendered in our endeavor to have the company return.
“Now we have achieved our objective, and look forward to new challenges,” Dr Salini said.