Suspended Solomons Mine Employees Ask Government For Clarification

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Gold Ridge workers concerned about delays in mitigating environmental risks

By Bradford Theonomi

HONIARA, Solomon Islands (Solomon Star, May 21, 2014 ) – Workers who were forced on suspension as St Barbara Mining officials left operations at Gold Ridge are asking the government what options it has not to allow the company to return and clean up its mess.

In a letter, dated 6th May 2014 by GRML employees to the Prime Minister Gordon Darcy Lilo it seeks clarifications to the situation.

Including reason behind the delay return of St Barbara, banning of 44 expatriate workers from returning and for refusing the company’s return to restart operations, do assessment and clean up the site.

This was also addressed to key ministries and figures of the government sighting the employees concern on the prolonging of any decision by the Prime Minister on St Barbara.

"The longer the government delay their return, the higher the chances these risks will be.

"It is not a time for assessment but time to act," it states.

It added the continuous management of these risks has been an integral part of St Barbara continuous operation and their absence means the absence of that risk management and control.

St Barbara needs to come back quickly and stabilize the imminent risk posed to people and environment by chemicals like cyanide.

The tailings dam also needs to be drained to avoid overflow which can cause catastrophic disaster to the people living downstream.

The workers stated that no one is on a better position to do the risk control now except for St Barbara technical people.

Getting new people will only take more time for them to familiarize with the systems and processes at site thus will again prolong the risk and time.

However if it is necessary that the company needs to shut down, then St Barbara need to come back and close operations properly.

"They need to sort out their legal responsibility to us the employees, landowners and even the government including the stakeholders.

"They need to sort out issues with landowners on royalties, employees to be on rightful redundancy package and NPF contributions needs to be settled even repatriation of its employees.

"We do not want a repeat of what happened with RIPEL workers who are still waiting for their entitlements due to forced closure."

Or can the government guarantee all these be done at their expense that is why the Prime Minister did not respond to our letter, or is it a new option on the horizon, questioned the GRML employees committee.

This includes the many benefits on workers and scholarships made available by St Barbara.

"If St Barbara is forced out, we need to know of the government will be able to settle these issues."

It added that GRML employees feel that any decision made concerning GRML need to involve them and to incorporate their welfare and interests.

"We do not wish to be unfairly victimized for the decisions that are made without our involvement. We will be fighting to ensure that our interests are upheld and protected."

In a statement over the weekend St Barbara management said it is keen to work together with the landowners and government and solve the current situation.

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