BY GEORGINA KEKEA
CHAIRMAN of the Kolobisi Tailings Dam Association (KTDA) has disproved media reports that Gold Ridge gold mine in Central Guadalcanal is about to be reopened soon.
In a statement to Island Sun, Chairman Primo Amusaea says he is calling on relevant authorities including the ministries of Mines and Energy and the Cabinet Subcommittee on Gold Ridge to verify claims by the holders of the Gold Ridge Mining Lease that they are about to reopen the mine.
He said it was claimed that significant progress has been made but he has reasons to believe otherwise.
He said what was being reported in the local media does not reflect what has been observed on the ground.
“Reports that people had moved out of the Mining Lease area is not true,” Amusaea said.
On the contrary, he said, people from the surrounding areas continue to move into the mining pits.
The plant site has been overgrown with grass and the area is dotted with rusted pieces of metal.
“Claims by the current Leaseholders that maintenance has been completed on the Plant Site is also not correct. Apart from very limited renovation work observed on what was previously St Barbara Head Office and Security Offices, very little work has been observed on the ground,” Amusaea said.
In short, he said, there has not been any progress in the reopening of Gold Ridge.
Meanwhile Chairman of the GCIL, Walton Naezon says work is progressing, though not at a pace which Amusaea wants.
He says the mining industry is a complex one and investors want to come and operate in an area where their operation is guaranteed.
He says currently they have done all that needs to be done and the onus is on them to prove that Gold Ridge mining site can be operational again.
He said this takes time especially in regaining investor confidence, thus it cannot be rushed.
He made examples to previous operations done on the same site especially the number of years it takes before actual mining operations took place.
“Feasibility studies have been done. Reviews are being done. It is not simple as it looks and investors needs to be 100 percent sure,” Naezon said.
At the same time, Naezon says people in the community are slowly working in compliance with GCIL.
He said they have moved out from the mine pits as the company had bought houses for them too.
He said roads are being repaired and the company continues to carry out other infrastructure work, which is contrary to what Amusaea said.
He adds, Amusaea should know better the work involved in order to have mining operations done in any location.
He said if Amusaea wants to know the progress of this development, he should consult him (Naezon).
“He knows me. He knows my office. He should come and see me personally. I will be more than happy to brief him on the progress of our work,” Naezon said.
Meanwhile, Amusaea said public had been led into thinking that mining operations at Gold Ridge are about to happen anytime soon.
He added it is about time truth about Gold Ridge is brought out into the open.
He said the only way to achieve this is probably through a Government appointed Commission of Inquiry.
With his claims he also attached pictures which he said are evidence to show how slow this development had been.
Asked by Island Sun if these are recent pictures he said yes. However one of the picture is dated January 2, 2011.
Naezon said he respects and understands where Amusaea is coming from but he had hoped that he (Amusaea) should consult him first instead of coming to the media.
He said while he understands Amusaea’s grievances, the least he can do is to consult him (Naezon) instead of speaking to the media.
GCIL took ownership of the mine in 2016 after 17 years in which the mine had been owned by foreigners.
As announced in August 2017, AXF Resources reported that AXF Gold Ridge has secured additional investor funding to start the recommissioning of the Gold Ridge project.
Newest shareholder and Hong Kong publicly listed company Wanguo International Mining Group will provide additional capital and technical expertise to the project.
In the unprecedented arrangement, Gold Ridge Community Investment Limited (GCIL), which comprises the local landowners, owns 10 percent of Gold Ridge Mining Limited.
Refurbishment are said to commence on site and community relations activities are ongoing with one of the priorities the establishment of socially inclusive engagement mechanisms with landowners and local communities.
Island Sun also understands that Managing Director of AXF Group, Richard Gu early this month has settled a bitter supreme court dispute in Australia, with his former joint partner.
Sydney Morning Herald reports that Gu over the years has sold his property holdings to invest in Gold Ridge mine.
Meanwhile in response to Amusaea, Naezon made the assurance that Gold Ridge mine will commence operation as and when it is ready.