NGO Blames Solomons Government For Gold Ridge Problems

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FSII: Government ‘miserably failed’ forcing mine to cease operations

HONIARA, Solomon Islands (Solomon Star, August 14, 2014) – Forum Solomon Islands International (FSII) says it would have been a different story if Prime Minister Lilo and his government took a professional approach to deal with St. Barbara’s forced majeure situation.

"The April flash floods which forced St. Barbara to abandon the Gold Ridge mine project created personal interests and conflict of interests amongst some of our leaders," FSII chief executive officer Benjamin Afuga claimed.

"It would have been a different situation if PM Lilo and his cabinet took a robust but responsible and professional approach," he said.

Mr Afuga said it is sad to have learned that the government "miserably failed" to fulfill its obligations as agreed by the Interim Working Group (IWG).

"The failure by the government has left St. Barbara in an awkward position; therefore it did what they did to reduce unnecessary costs, which seriously affect other stakeholders."

Mr Afuga also said reports from two paramount chiefs and principal landowners from the Gold Ridge mining area, Willie Roni and Sam Tiva, confirmed that there have been some elements of looting and removal of company properties on Tuesday.

Chief Roni said they were called by some opportunists are removing properties.

His colleague chief Tiva also confirmed their presence at the plant site.

"I have witnessed what transpired and it is a regrettable sight to see people trying to get something from the site," chief Tiva said.

Both chiefs reminded anyone trying to encroach into the plant site and other camps to keep out.

GRML general manager Steam Barrie has said due to a number of factors outside of their control, a return to gold production is not going to be possible for a while.

"Much of the site stabilization work has been completed and it is now necessary to reduce the workforce to a level more consistent with the current scale of activities.

"Unfortunately this means that a number of employees will be made redundant this week,"Mr Barrie said.

Mr Afuga said the situation GRML now faces was caused by the government, adding the situation is having an adverse effect on poor employees who depend on their employment with Gold Ridge Company to meet basic needs for their families.

"What some of us experienced, witnessed and have been hearing is the consequence of our leaders’decisions.

"If they would have taken a professional and considerate or holistic approach, nothing of this level will happen," he said.

Mr Afuga also refuted claims that the government has shown commitment in the Gold Ridge project.

"It is hypocritical to read the special secretary to the prime minister saying that the Gold Ridge mine is an important contributor to the economy.

"The way things have emerged over the past 4 months does not illustrate anything near what we call commitment,"Mr Afuga said.

He said the prime minister and his cabinet should take the full blame for failing to set a level playing field or conducive environment to ensure the Gold Ridge mine reopens as soon as possible.

He added the government has instead opted to "play games", which unfortunately turned out to be tampering the rate of goods and service deliveries in this country.

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