Reported Solomons Sunken Treasure Actually Iron, Lead

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Pacific Islands Development Program, East-West Center With Support From Center for Pacific Islands Studies, University of Hawai‘i

Worthless ‘gold bars,’ seized by police, recovered in Ontong Java

By Aatai John

HONIARA, Solomon Islands (Solomon Star, March 8, 2016) – Suspected "gold bars" salvaged from a sunken ship in the Malaita Outer Islands were found not to be gold.

Experts from the Ministry of Mines and Energy, who physically checked the consignment, confirmed this to the Solomon Star yesterday.

"They’re not gold, just a mixture of iron and lead," a spokesman from the ministry, who spoke to the Solomon Star on condition of anonymity, said.

"Just by looking at the physical appearance of the products, you can tell they are not gold or mineral of any value.

"They were just mixture of iron, which we believed were used in ships during those days to balance the vessel," the officer, who was part of the examination team, said.

The suspected gold bars were salvaged by villagers of Ontong Java, led by Dr Reginald Aipia, and brought over to Honiara last Friday.

There were more than 70 "gold bars".

But police seized the cargo and took it away for safe keeping and examination at the Central Bank of Solomon Islands.

The story went viral and was taken up by the regional media, who reported that "gold bars from an old sunken ship were salvaged by villagers in Solomon Islands.

The ministry official said the characteristics of the "suspected gold bars" were no closer to gold or any other mineral of value.

Those involved in the salvage, told the Solomon Star in Honiara yesterday the ship sunk in the late 1800s outside their island.

They used modern diving gear to reach the ship at the bottom of the ocean and brought the suspected gold bars above water.

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