9 Apr 2003

Solomon Islands oil palm company may be operating again by November

10:45 am on 9 April 2003

A Solomon Islands Government official says he hopes the giant oil palm operation, Solomon Islands Plantations Ltd, will be in operation by the end of the year.

Rence Sore is the co-ordinator of a taskforce dedicated to trying to re-open SIPL and the Gold Ridge gold mine, which were key contributors to the national economy before being forced to close by the ethnic tension.

He says re-opening the oil palm operation is more likely in the neat future than the gold mine, but firstly the demands of landowners have to be satisfied.

"they are demanding for lost properties and damages, the other one is related to peace and reconciliation ceremonies, the third one is land rental for year 2000 and year 2001....they want that to be settled before SIPL starts back."

Rence Sore, who says they will need around 20 million US dollars to make SIPL fully functional.

He says they are looking for overseas investors, but also hope the Government will able to provide some funding through instalments.

Meanwhile, the owners of the Solomon Islands Gold Ridge mine are assessing the risks of re-opening it before making any commitment to do so.

Steven Smith, the chief financial officer of Placer Dome Asia Pacific in Brisbane, says the company only took over ownership of Gold Ridge at the beginning of this year through the acquisition of Aurion.

Mr Smith says they've held one preliminary meeting with the Solomon Islands government but it will be some time before any decision is made over the mine.