12 Mar 2015

Money flows to casual gold diggers in Solomons

11:03 am on 12 March 2015

Around 200 people in Solomon Islands have set up camps in the pits at the closed Gold Ridge mine on Guadalcanal and have taken over gold production at the site.

The local goldminers met and spoke with Australian National University researcher, Matthew Allen, during his trip to the mine in February.

An artisinal gold miner from Nusuta village in Solomon Islands Guadalcanal Province digs for ore in Gold Ridge's pit 3 also known as Kupers.

A man from Nusuta village in Solomon Islands digs for ore in Gold Ridge's pit 3 also known as Kupers. Photo: Copyright Matthew Allen, January 2015

Dr Allen who is studying the political economy of mining in Melanesia and is currently in Bougainville says the women in some of the families say they are earning more money mining for themselves than they ever did when the mine was operating.

"The women were really happy that since the mine has closed access to the pits has been much easier for them and has been providing them with direct access to cash income which they can use for things like school fees and for taking their kids to clinics and to the hospital and so forth."

Dr Allen says the miners are using very basic methods, digging up the ore and washing it out in streams over astroturf-like material to catch the gold.

He says a family can produce five grams of gold on average per day which they sell to local gold dealers for US$22 per gram, which is a substantial income by Solomon Islands standards.

 A man from Nusuta village showing the gold produced from two to three hours work at the Charivunga river near pit 4, also known as Dawsons. He estimates that there are seven to eight grams of gold in his pan. He produced this with the help of his wife and children.

An artisanal miner from Nusuta village in Solomon Islands showing the gold produced from two to three hours work at the Charivunga river, Gold Ridge. Photo: Copyright Matthew Allen, February 2015