Questions Raised About Bauxite Mining Deal In Solomons

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

Licensing deal with Australian companies disputed

By Bradford Theonomi

HONIARA, Solomon Islands (Solomon Star, May 2, 2016) – The Ministry of Mines and Energy has come under questioning after giving Australian mining company, Iron Mountain Mining a prospecting licence for a tenement on Nende Island in Temotu.

Iron Mountain Mining obtained shares when signing an option agreement to acquire 50 percent stake in privately held AU Capital Mining, believed to be holders of two prospecting licences for Choiseul and Temotu.

"The companies are interested in bauxites."

Spokesman for Nende Tribal Landowners, Stanley Bade, said the procedures followed to acquire the letter of intent and the prospecting licences issued by the ministry raised a lot of questions.

"This is because of the process of acquiring the signatures for the surface access agreement," Bade said.

"They are very dubious in nature and are liable for legal challenge by the Nende tribal landowners," he added.

Bade claimed the acquiring of the letter of intent and the prospecting licences were done through force by the responsible officers within the Ministry of Mines.

[PIR editor’s note: On May 2, 2016 Solomon Star reported that ‘An agreement between AU Capital Mining and Iron Mountain Mining was done outside the government’s normal process, without the input from the Ministry of Mines. ... A reliable source told the Sunday Star the Mines ministry does not recognise the agreement because it was done without the ministry’s knowledge. ... The source said the recent announcement through the media has nothing to do with the Ministry.’]

"This is evident with the mines and minerals board not providing advice to the minister before issuing of the prospecting licence," Bade added.

Bade claimed when AU Capital Mining Pty Ltd agents negotiate for the surface access agreement it failed miserably to follow the right procedures.

"There was only one awareness meeting and landowners were asked to sign up their signatures as opposed to three meetings according to the rightful procedure.

"The three meetings should be awareness, consultation, and the negotiation for the surface access agreement," he said.

Bade said the initial negotiation time frame as far as they have known of the rightful procedure is 3 – 6 months.

"Surprisingly it took only 12 days to cover West Nende area, but the mapped out tenement covers the entire Island.

"Awareness was only done from 1st – 12th December 2015," Bade claimed.

This has led to the Ministry of Provincial Government turning down the company’s application for provincial business licenses, he said.

"It’s obvious and the provincial government knows it," he said.

Permanent Secretary of Mines Jeffery Deve could not respond to questions put to him before this paper went to the press.

He said a formal response to the query will be made once the technical officers responsible are identified.

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