Illegal Miners Reported At Solomons’ Gold Ridge

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Company concerned for safety, disruption to operations

HONIARA, Solomon Islands (Solomon Star, June 20, 2013) – Gold Ridge Mining Limited (GRML) says illegal miners have been moving into their mining lease, disrupting their operations in the Solomon Islands.

General manager Stean Barrie said counts of up to 150 illegal miners are moving in and around the pits daily.

"An increase of illegal gold panning at Gold Ridge is raising fears for the safety of illegal miners," Mr. Barries said yesterday.

"At the same time, it is having a damaging impact on productivity at the mine and the amount of royalties due to landowners and the Solomon Islands Government (SIG)."

He said these illegal miners have been moving into the mining lease over the last four months, putting themselves at risk of harm, stealing gold from the Mining Lease and reducing royalty payments.

"We are concerned for the well being of everybody on the mine site and we feel that it is only a matter of time before an illegal miner is seriously injured or possibly even killed," Mr. Barrie said.

"Mine sites are potentially dangerous areas with hazards such as heavy machinery and blasting. There are families with women and children in active mining areas whom we do not wish to put in danger," he added.

"Furthermore, the disruption to our operations has an immediately negative impact on productivity, which in turn lowers the amount of royalties, export duties and taxes that GRML pays to the Solomon Island Government. Illegal miners do not contribute to the community."

Mr. Barrie said due to illegal mining the company estimates as much as SB$150,000 [US$20,580] a month is lost in royalties to landowners and the SIG.

"GRML’s economic contribution goes towards developing the Solomon Islands and particularly Guadalcanal, supporting clinics, schools and roads.

"Illegal miners are effectively stealing from local communities," Mr. Barrie said.

According to the Mines and Minerals Act, mineral rights belong to the state, not an individual.

Guadalcanal Provincial Police Commander David Diosi said the actions of these people are illegal.

"The message from the Police is clear: Unauthorized entry is illegal and offenders will be charged. According to Solomon Island Penal Code, illegal miners may face up to five years imprisonment for stealing gold," Mr. Diosi said.

"With offenses related to illegal panning, culprits will be handed over to the police and they will be prosecuted," he warned.

It’s believed those involved are villagers surrounding the mining lease at Gold Ridge.

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