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HONIARA, Solomon Islands (Solomon Star, Feb. 15) – The Bugotu Landowners Association has reaffirmed its long-standing position against the renewal of PacRim’s prospecting license for the Isabel nickel deposit in the Solomon Islands.

[PIR editor’s note: Isabel province comprises the island of Santa Isabel, northwest of Guadalcanal island where the national capital of Honiara is situated.]

The Chairman of the Bugotu Landowners Association, Josiah Riagano said he was shocked by the news that new Minister for Mines and Energy Simeon Bouro renewed PacRim’s Prospecting License last month for another three months without consulting the provincial government and his association.

"Our position has never changed since the Bugotu Landowners Association Executive meetings and any claim by the Department that we have changed our stand is indeed not true," Mr. Riagano said in a statement yesterday. "We are against renewing PacRim’s prospecting license."

Mr. Riagano said he believed both the provincial government and the Bugotu Landowners Association are united in their opposition against the renewal.

"Our reasons for objecting are very clear. We were told for example that the company was unable to meet the fee the government asked it to pay up front. Instead of paying Canadian $500,000 [US$432,00], it managed only SBD$100,000 [US$14,450]," he said.

Mr. Riagano said the action by the minister on the advice of the director of mines in renewing the license is questionable. Our understanding is that when the former minister refused to grant the renewal, it is the end of the process; therefore, the company - including PacRim for the matter - has to lodge a new application if it were still interested in the areas over which it once held the license," he said.

"The former minister made it quite clear that he denied renewing the license because of non-compliance by the company with sections of the Mines and Minerals Act. How can the new minister issue a renewal knowing full well that the Isabel Provincial Government has repeatedly refused to give PacRim a business license? It’s a futile exercise. Without the business license, which is statutory, there is no way the company will be allowed on Isabel. It is pointless giving the license to a firm that cannot set foot on the island," Mr. Riagano said.

He also questioned why out of the blue the prospecting license was renewed. "Since July last year, we know that PacRim has no valid claim over the areas in Isabel because its prospecting license expired. Its claim in our view has died a natural death," he said.

[PIR editor’s note: Solomon Islands Minister of Mines and Energy Basil Manelegua rejected an application from Pacrim Resources in August of last year for a renewal of their prospecting license for nickel in Isabel Province because the company had not complied with mining regulations (read the story).]

February 16, 2006

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