Gold Ridge LOs call on DCC - Solomon Star News

Gold Ridge LOs call on DCC

16 December 2014

THE CHAIRMAN of the Gold Ridge Community and Landowners’ Association is calling on the DCC Government to seriously consider their outstanding issues.

“As the government settles down and ready to kick start its business, I want to remind government to consider our outstanding issues,” Dick Douglas said on Tuesday.

He said former NCRA government has miserably failed to address their outstanding issues, most of which are agreement breaches and unsettled benefits clearly spelt out in the agreements.

Douglas also admitted that his association also submitted three petitions to the NCRA government, yet no one seemed to be talking about the contents of the petitions, let alone addressing any single one.

“The treatment went from bad to worse last year when it was discovered that our royalty funds have been misused by the Solomon Islands Government,” he added.

A government task force established by the NCRA government confirmed that $18 million of landowners’ royalties held in trust by CBSI has been illegally paid out by the government to certain individuals and bogus companies.

A number of senior Government officials from Mines Ministry and MoFT have since been suspended for their part in this $18m scandal but are yet to face prosecution.

FSII understands that the 3 Landowners Association that are stakeholders in the Gold Ridge Mining project includes the Gold Ridge Community and Landowners Association (GRCLA), Kolobisi Tailing Dams Association (KTDA) and the Metapona Downstream Association (MDA).

Douglas said, these 3 Associations have their own outstanding issues but added all faced similar situations.

“Our two sister landowners Associations now faced severe threats from the TSF (Tailing Storage Facility), in the event it overflows or breaks,” Douglas said.

Former Operator of the only Gold Mine in the Solomon Islands, Melbourne based St. Barbara has pulled out of the country after a fruitless dialogue with the Government and stakeholders.

St. Barbara was shattered by the April Flash floods that rampaged the mine’s assets and cut off the Tinahulu bridge that connects the plant site and Honiara.

St. Barbara then applied the “forced majeure” clause in the mining agreement. It shutdown the plant site and flew back its entire expatriate staff, citing employees and their families’ safety remains their top priority.

However St. Barbara’s action was met with strong resentment and disagreement, forcing the former PM Gordon Darcy Lilo to take a tough stance against St. Barbara.

For months, all expatriate staffs were not permitted to fly back as they have been prohibited by the Immigration Department from advice from the OPMC.

The former NCRA government then announced that it will take over the mine.

But the plant site and surrounding mining lease area properties have since been ransacked by criminals.

Properties worth millions of dollars were stolen, vandalized or removed.

A recent visit by the FSII News confirmed a widespread deface to company properties, including damages to the TSF water pumps and other essential facilities.

“The scene is shocking and the costs from what I gathered is quite substantial but the need to reopen the mine is very important”, FSII CEO said.

Benjamin Afuga said although Police took charge of the security work at the plant site, there were still vandalism and other criminal actions employed by certain individuals.

“It is devastating to see all the expensive assets lie idle in crushed conditions,” Afuga added.

Meanwhile, Douglas has invited interested investors not to by-pass them in any future negotiations to reopen the mine.

“The past operators have negotiated without landowners, therefore this time please do not forget to involve us. We want to present our side of the story and express them in our own ways, not through the government or any other agents,” Douglas added.

Douglas hopes the new DCC government will take their case seriously so that the mine can recommence operations to stabilize the national economy.

- FSII News