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Claims government bypassed them in seeking bids

HONIARA, Solomon Islands (Solomon Star, March 31, 2010) – In the Solomon Islands, landowners in Isabel say the government did not consult them about its plan to put out to international tender a nickel mine in Isabel Province.

[PIR editor’s note: Tokyo-based Sumitomo Metal mining has been exploring for nickel-ore deposits since 2006 on San Jorge and Takataka in Isabel Province. See previous story.]

The Minister for Mines, David Day Pacha, says the announcement is a signal that the country is now a good place for investment.

But the Bogotu Landowners Association, which represents the tribes that have a claim on the area, says it was not involved in the decision.

The association’s chairman, Josiah Riogano, says the landowners are not opposed to an international investor, but they want the government to choose one which will involve the landowners in extracting minerals.

"We don’t oppose entirely this development. What we really want is that we are going to be involved and get the maximum benefit out of our resources."

Mr. Riogano says there is provision to challenge the government on issue, but they are waiting to see what will happen after the general election.

He says previous reports suggested the mine could be worth about US$180 million.

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