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By Moffat Mamu

HONIARA, Solomon Islands (Solomon Star, Mar. 2) – A Solomon Islands tribe in the Gold Ridge area of Guadalcanal has expressed concern over the sudden recruitment of locals by the Australian Solomons Goldridge (ASG) Mining Company.

The Chavuchavu tribal group said the action by ASG is not right because the company is yet to settle some of the landowners’ demands.

Members of the tribe who visited Solomon Star yesterday said they are concerned about the recent recruitment of locals, who have been seen cleaning areas around the mine site, which was demolished during recent years of ethnic tension in the country.

"Ten locals have been recruited from the area and they are now cleaning around the site. They were recruited on Monday and since then have been brushing up the area in preparation for what they claimed to be the start of operations," a member of the tribe said yesterday.

The members said what they wanted ASG to explain is whether it had already received exclusive rights to operate in the area.

"If so then this is not right because there are certain things and demands to settle before an agreement can be reached between the parties concern," the landowners said.

They said there are still outstanding demands, which ASG had to settle before it starts operation.

"Not only that but the company had not met with the local tribe to spell out the benefits from the operation. The council of chiefs and landowners are yet to meet on Thursday (tomorrow) to discuss some of the things that ASG needs to address before it can operate," one of the members said.

They said the action by ASG is a big concern for Chavuchavu tribe because it suddenly came in and started recruiting casual labourers although no agreement had been reached.

The Ministry of Mines and Energy has revealed that there was no agreement being made between the landowners, the ministry and the company.

Therefore, it said, such move by ASG is not right.

The management of the ASG could not be reached for comments yesterday afternoon.

The Australian-based company is the new company to operate at Gold Ridge after winning the tender last year.

[In 1998 Ross Mining of Australia began producing gold at Gold Ridge on Guadalcanal. Minerals exploration in other areas continued. However in the wake of the ethnic violence in June 2000, exports of palm oil and gold ceased while exports of timber fell.]

March 3, 2005

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