Solomons' gold mine wants answers on govt ban
The operator of the Gold Ridge Mine in Solomon Islands is perplexed by a Solomons' Government decision to stop its expatriate workers from re-entering the country.
The operators of the Gold Ridge mine on Guadalcanal in Solomon Islands are mystified by a Solomons' Government ban on their expatriate workers re-entering the country.
The mine shut down after the flooding hit Guadalcanal nearly a month ago and expat staff - mostly Australians - left the country.
Melbourne based St Barbara owns Gold Ridge Mines Ltd and its chief executive, Tim Lehaney, told Don Wiseman they are still waiting for the Solomons Government to explain their actions.
TIM LEHANEY: The only explanation that we have is the one that was given on the memorandums and I am not quoting this verbatim but it mentioned that these people were excluded so that there could be an investigation conducted of the status and condition of the mine. I am not sure what that means. We know of course that there are some people from the United Nations that the Solomon Islands Government has called in to have a look at the tailings storage dam on site and I think that is part of that.
DON WISEMAN: Is it a concern for you that these investigations are going on and your people are shut out. I mean do you accept that?
TL: Oh look I have no choice but to accept it. It is not a concern for us but I would say that with the passage time it will become more and more difficult to do this work and make these assessments. So our imperative is to get back on the ground quickly to do the stabilisation work which is the subject of a detailed plan that we had given the Solomon Islands government a couple of weeks ago now and to undertake an assessment of the damage to the mining operation and consequently what it would take to re-start operations there. So time is of the essence here. We need to get back on the ground and that's our focus.
DW: When the flooding occurred did it occur to you guys to perhaps go to other parts of Solomon Islands rather than leave the country?
TL: Our imperative was to ensure the safety and security of the 200 people on site at the time, 63 of which, in the Solomon Islands context, were foreign nationals. Given the advice that we had about the state of things on the ground in Honiara and the fact that there was very little by way of reports of the conditions in areas outside of Honiara, we thought it was best for us and those foreign nationals, and to lessen the load on the emergency services in the Solomons, to take people out of Honiara. And it was that simple.
DW: Do you think that the Solomon Islands Government is thinking here in terms of criminality on the part of your company?
TL: Look I couldn't tell what they are thinking of at the moment in that respect but I would be surprised if that was the case because we have broken no laws, so there has been no criminal action at all.
DW: Is this something that is likely to undermine the enthusiasm that St Barbara has for involvement in Solomon Islands?
TL: Look we really need to get back there and sit down with the Government and talk about what it would take to re-start the mining operations. So we are keen to get back in the country and do that work with them, and make no mistake, you know there was significant damage done to the open pit mining operations in that storm event and we also know, or we are also informed now that there have been increasing incursions of illegal miners back into the open pit mine workings now, since operations were suspended.
DW: Are there still several dozen police on site?
TL: I believe so.
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