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By Moffat Mamu

HONIARA, Solomon Islands (Solomon Star, Jan. 10) – OMEX logging company has pulled out from its controversial operation on Bolopoe island, Vella La Vella, in the Solomon Islands Western Province.

The action, which came just less than a year into operation, was a major victory for landowners who opposed the logging operation since day one.

Omex, which is owned by Tongs Corporation, withdrew from its Bolopoe camp just before Christmas day.

The company refused to disclose reasons for its decision when contacted yesterday.

But landowners spoken to said the company was frustrated with continuing disturbances from those opposing the logging operations.

"The company sent in its barge one afternoon, loaded all its equipment from the camp site and left. They didn’t say a word to us," one landowner said. "But we understand they were frustrated with the continuing disturbances that the other group opposed to the operation were doing. Opponents of the logging have been building road blocks and stealing logging equipment every now and then," the landowner, who asked not to be named, said.

Opposition to the operation was not new.

In July last year, a fight broke out between company security guards and opponents of the operation during a protest.

Omex Limited Personal Officer Stephen Nunumae yesterday declined to comment.

"I will not comment," he replied when asked about the company’s withdrawal.

However, the Western Province Forestry office at Gizo yesterday confirmed Omex’s withdrawal from Bolopoe.

"The company pulled out before Christmas due to unresolved dispute with the people in the area.

"The company is frustrated because it had been waiting for three months for the people to settle their problems but nothing positive was reached.

"That’s why the company pulled out," the forestry spokesman said.

He said during the three months very little was conducted in the logging concession.

Meanwhile, landowners supporting the operation are reportedly seeking legal advice on alleged breach of contract.

The Solomon Star understands that Omex had an existing agreement with Bolopoe Corporation, a company formed to represent the interest of those supporting the operation.

It was not clear whether Omex had made any log shipments overseas. It was however, understood that the company had been felling logs in the area.

The forestry officer said any logs felled must be exported because they cannot be left to rot on the land.

Solomon Star: http://www.solomonstarnews.com/

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