Gold Ridge Mine Threatened With Legal Action Over River Damage

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Solomons Downstream Association seeks $2 million compensation

By Carlos Aruafu and Denver Newter

HONIARA, Solomon Islands (Solomon Star, Aug. 27, 2012) – The Metapona Downstream Association (MDA) in North Guadalcanal has threatened to seek legal action against the Gold Ridge Mining Limited (GRML) if their demand is not met within fourteen days.

The association is demanding $15million [US$2.03 million] dollar for damages to the river they allegedly claimed to have been caused by mining operation done by Gold Ridge Mining Limited (GRML).

To prove their demand the association organized a field visit for the media to the site over the weekend.

Some of the effects they raised were blockage to the downstream, damages to cocoa plants, food crops, damage to the natural habitant, water turned muddy and diversion of the water flow.

Head of the association and former Guadalcanal Premier Stephen Panga said they have issued the first 14 days notice which has already lapsed to the company to respond but there was no respond.

Because of that the former Premier said they will seek legal action against the company if their second notice of 14 days lapses.

He said if things do not go according to plan they will hire a law firm from Australia to represent them.

"At the moment we extend our 14 days notice to allow the company and the Ministry of Mines and Energy to discuss our issues.

"All documents to file a case against the company is at hand and if Gold Ridge Mining Company agrees to negotiate there must be a signed agreement which will also subject to the views of the people," he said.

Mr Panga said the association is also looking at engaging a team from the Ministry of Environment to test soil samples to back their case should the company failed to comply with their claims.

He said the association has taken these actions because their surrounding communities have been affected for many years by the impacts of the mining operations done upstream.

Attempts to get comments from the company management over the weekend were not successful. However comments are being sought.

Meanwhile former minister of lands, survey and housing and Member of Parliament (MP) for North Guadalcanal Martin Sopaghe appealed to the GRML management to recognise the plight of the association and landowners.

He also supported the claim by Mr Panga that most of the agricultural crops close to the river have been affected.

"Most of the families now depended on water tanks and underground wells far from the river to fetch water," he said.

He said because of the mining activities the communities living downstream are unable to use the river to wash and fish because of alleged contamination to the river.

Because of the increasing problem, Mr Sopaghe had earlier said the constituency will engage an environmental lawyer to help them fight for their rights.

He said his constituency will work hard in order to ensure their demands are met.

"We want our rights to be recognised and respected," he said.

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