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New owner of Gold Ridge offers customary apology

By Moffat Mamu HONIARA, Solomon Islands (Solomon Star, March 23, 2010) - Gold Ridge Mining Limited (GRML), through its new owner Allied Gold management, reconciled with all landowning groups within the Gold Ridge area in Central Guadalcanal yesterday.

The major reconciliation ceremony, described as a break through for the company, was part of getting the company’s operations off the ground.

GRML had been in the country for over five years but under two owners.

Previously under Australian Solomons Gold (ASG) before Allied Gold also from Australia took over from GRML last December decided to organize the reconciliation with the 16 communities in the area.

GRML acting General Manager Tom Michalak said the reconciliation ceremony is an important process to get the company going in its quest to resume full operations.

He said despite the short time in the area they have been privileged to have built relationships, developed friendship and begun to understand the Solomon’s custom and culture.

"We have also developed friendships and begun to understand the Solomon’ culture and custom. Inevitably, we have also discovered and become aware of the legacy left behind by the previous mining company. Whilst this legacy was positive in many ways in some ways it was not. A legacy that for many has meant hurt, suffering and sadness. We can never fully understand the decisions made by the previous mining company. But we understand the importance of this reconciliation process and we are humbled to be part of it," he said.

The company then offered chupus (traditional food gifts) to say how sorry they are.

"We present these chupus to echo our apology in a custom way as a token to reconcile the past, to settle the difference and bring us closer together, to mark a new beginning for GRML and our stakeholders as we begin to redevelop the Gold Ridge mine," the acting GRML boss said.

Executive Chairman GRML Mark Caruso said the ceremony is a significant cultural event to the communities and Gold Ridge.

"The issues of many sometimes become the problem of a few," he said.

He said since the tension began, some 10 years have nearly lapsed.

It is therefore accepted by the company and communities of Gold Ridge that the process of reconciliation has taken longer than anticipate, he said.

"Certain issues have been far more difficult to resolve and required a greater time and consideration to achieve a satisfactory outcome for all landowners and community members and stake holder. For any reconciliation to begin and to last there must be time to heal and there must be a genuine forgiveness in the heart of all parties and willingness to go forward and listen and respect each other’s culture and human rights," he said.

As a new comer to the Gold Ridge project Mr. Caruso said it would be non genuine to stand before the people and be held to accept responsibility for actions taken on behalf of the previous owners.

"We do however acknowledge that the actions of the previous owners have caused personal fatality to individuals and pain and suffering to their families. We acknowledge the previous owners have not been up to the expectations of the landowners and when there is conflict there is inevitably a breakdown in communication and with the break down of communication comes misunderstanding which sometimes is difficult to overcome," he said.

The Chairman said the company is committed to the healing process in order to move the re-development work of the project.

During the ceremony about 27 chupus (traditional food gifts) and shell money were given to the communities by the GRML.

Some of the chupus are for deceased who lost their lives during road accidents.

In return the Gold Ridge Community Landowners Council also presented gifts (chupus) the GRML executive.

Chairman of the Gold Ridge Community Landowners Council (GRCLC) Dick Douglas said the reconciliation demonstrate true manner of the local culture which now enables the company to move on with its operations.

Witnessing the ceremony yesterday were the Minister of Reconciliation Sam Iduri, his permanent secretary Joy Kere, Permanent Secretary for Police and national security Henry Pika, Acting Police Commissioner Walter Kola and his senior officials.

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