Solomons gold mine pull out followed fears of lawlessness
Australian gold producer says it had no option but to temporarily pull out of its Solomon Islands operation after violence and lawlessness escalated in the wake of last week's floods.
The Australian mining company, St Barbara, says it had to temporarily abandon its Gold Ridge mine in Solomon Islands because of lawlessness.
This comes after its subsidiary Gold Ridge Mining Ltd withdrew all personnel from its Gold Mine on Guadalcanal following last week's torrential rain.
The company's director, Tim Lehany, says to ensure safety, all operations ended on Thursday April the 3rd and all staff were withdrawn by Monday.
A large police contingent from Solomon Islands and Australia is now guarding the site.
Tim Lehaney told Don Wiseman the flooding was the catalyst for the violence.
TIM LEHANEY: The weather meant that the operations in the local communities were completely cut off so that there was no easy access from external parties to the mine, and the only access that we had was by helicopter and that was entirely relying on the weather. There was a a lot of displaced people, there was a lot of damage to the local villages and communities, gardens washed away, and there was a lot of local unrest.
DON WISEMAN: And it was just opportunism?
TL: You could say that I guess. All I can say is that we were getting increasing incursions into the mine. Numbers of people - we had two of our company vehicles with people in them stoned. We had significant damage and vandalism to some of our company equipment and property stolen so we formed a view that this was escalating and we needed to take people out. Just to give you some idea Prime Minister Lilo has deployed officers from the Royal Solomons Police Force and has requested Australian Federal Police armed support from RAMSI which is also on the site. So it would be reasonable to assume that the government's assessment of the security situation at Gold Ridge is such as to require a heavy presence there.
DW: All right, so, Gold Ridge, are you going back under these circumstances?
TL: Look, we have a team of people ready to go back into country and to the mine to make the assessments that are required firstly to determine what needs to be done to reestablish operation and also to work with the AFP and the Royal Solomons police officers who are securing the facility to deal with some of their concerns around explosives that we have stored in a magazine and some processing chemicals that are at the site. We are waiting for assurances from the Solomon Islands government as to their safety and security and freedom of passage and once we have those assurances people will be going back into Honiara and back into the mine.
DW: And that will happen when do you think?
TL: As soon as we can get those assurances. The earliest would be Tuesday morning next week .
DW: What about the company in the long term because there have been questions asked and I know that things haven't been particularly rosy amongst your shareholders as far as your involvement with Gold Ridge goes. So what is your long term future of your involvement with Gold Ridge?
TL: I think that fixing - determining what needs to be done to get the mine into operation is the first priority. You know, that is unknown at the moment, we really don't know the extent of the damage so we pulled people back, we've been off the mine for some period of time, we really don't know what will be required. It will not be back in operation quickly because we have no road access so we completely rely on diesel fuel for power generation and during full operations we receive six to eight road tankers of diesel fuel a day so until the public roads and bridges can be restored there is no prospect of resuming operations.
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