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HONIARA, Solomon Islands (November 2, 1997 - PACNEWS)---About 50 percent of the Solomon Islands is now licensed to be explored by foreign mining and mineral prospecting companies.

Government Director of Geology Don Tolia says currently a total of nine companies already are prospecting for gold and other minerals, while another 26 companies have yet to begin their licensed prospecting work.

Tolia says other applications for mineral prospecting are still pending and interest continues to grow. He says while companies already prospecting have yet to release detailed results of their studies, the fact that a number of them have renewed their prospecting licenses is an indication of potential finds of gold and other mineral deposits.

So far, Tolia says, the most promising gold deposits have been on Vangunu in the Western Province and Poha on Guadalcanal, where the Canadian company, Leigh Resources, has been prospecting for four years.

He says mineral prospecting is costing the foreign companies more than $300,000 each under their one- or two-year licenses.

Most of the mineral prospecting interest is concentrated throughout Guadalcanal, Western and Choiseul provinces and parts of Malaita and Makira provinces.

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