SOLOMONS LANDOWNERS SPLIT ON NICKEL MINE

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By Moffat Mamu

HONIARA, Solomon Islands (Solomon Star, Nov. 6) – More than 300 landowners and chiefs in Solomon Islands Bugotu reportedly withdrew their support from the Bugotu Landowners Association.

The withdrawal came to light as Bugotu Landowners Association declared it would engage Axiom Mining Company to develop nickel deposits on San Jorge Island and Takata.

[PIR editor’s note: San Jorge island is a smaller island located just south of Santa Isabel Island in the central part of the Solomon Island chain. Axiom Mining, incorporated in June 1992, is registered in Hong Kong and listed on the Australian Stock Exchange. The company operates projects in the Sepon area of Vietnam, and the Cardross and OK Mines projects in Queensland, Australia.]

The withdrawal was made in an October 18 letter to Bugotu Landowners Association that carries more than 300 signatures.

Those who withdrew their support claimed Bugotu Landowners Association no longer has the interest of the Bugotu people at heart.

Instead, they said Bugotu Landowners Association members are only serving themselves.

They also advised the Ministry of Mines and Energy to disregard any application or directive from Bugotu Landowners Association.

Vice chairman of the Bugotu House of Chiefs Joseph Bogese said Bugotu Landowners Association no long had the support of landowners.

He also claimed Bugotu House of Chiefs does not support Bugotu Landowners Association’s choice of Axiom as the company to engage.

"We don’t support Axiom because there are issues that still need to be sorted out," he said.

He claimed Axiom offered about SB$2 million [US$287,000] to Bugotu Landowners Association early this year but most of the landowners and chiefs never received any thing.

"Where is the money gone and who used it," Mr. Bogese asked.

He said the House of Chiefs would meet next week on the issue.

Mr. Bogese questioned the reported 20 per cent share Axiom will give to landowners.

However, Secretary General of the Isabel House of Chiefs Ambrose Bugotu said Mr. Bogese has not been authorized to speak on their behalf.

Mr. Bugotu said they support Bugotu Landowners Association.

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