By Gary Hatigeva
LANDOWNING tribes and communities within the Gold Ridge catchment area have been urged to respect the revived Gold Ridge Mining operation.
This, the Chairman of the Gold Ridge Council of Chiefs, Dick Douglas emphasised during a chupu ceremony over the weekend, which seek the cultural consent of those residing within four of the pits that are part of the mining lease for the Gold Ridge Land, to move out.
The ceremony saw a total of 25 chupus being presented to members of the 16 tribes that own the Gold Ridge land, including tribesmen and women of nearby regions within Guadalcanal.
Douglas, who was instrumental in the consultation process, which seeks to involve a peaceful means of getting his people out of the mining pits, called on his people that have resettled in the mine sites to respect the company and the process that will be conducted for their removal.
“Respect is an important thing in our culture where we will show to all parties involved that we agree upon and we would also want the process to go smoothly so we can achieve what we anticipate as the good part in the operation of the mining company on our land.
“And you all should be proud of the fact that we as landowners for the first time, own a company that will give benefits back to our people.”
He then appealed to his people through representations of the chiefs of Gold Ridge from the 16 tribes that are living within the pits, “to respect and honour the agreements that will see our moving out from these pits”.
Meanwhile, Douglas acknowledged the Gold Ridge Community Investment Limited (GCIL) Management team and the chairman, for what he termed as a vision, on the work done and recognising the importance of ensuring a smooth and effective way to deal with our people and other friends in these pits.
He said this vision should be given thorough acknowledgement because it will give the people of Gold Ridge a pure opportunity, to hold hands with not only fellow landowners for a common good, but so as for the benefit of both the company and the landowners.
“On that note, I therefore urge the management to look at our people and listen to their concerns, bringing them (issues) on the table for discussions to ensure they are met in ways possible, so we can support each other in this important development.”
He however asked that the Solomon Islands government also look into the outstanding issues of his people known to have been pending, “and it is very important that they are given due diligent and considerations so we can iron them out for the benefit of all involved in this important project”.
“I would also want to reiterate that the support of our people on the local company the GCIL is paramount and for that I want to salute the people from the 16 tribes that own gold ridge for your continued support in the processes that we have been through up till now.
“I would also want to thank the work of the Council of Chiefs and the team that you have put in place, with the emphasis in what we now see as another important part in the process, and that is for our people’s removal from the pits
“We don’t want anything to disturb the operations, don’t we?” the Chairman for the Gold Ridge Council of Chiefs asked the gathered Gold Ridge Chiefs, elders and community members present at the occasion.
Also speaking during the ceremony, mines minister and Member of Parliament for East Guadalcanal, Bradley Tovosia, in his response, assured those residing in the pits that the government will see whatever issues they are facing as far as relocation is concerned.
He said the government will look at where necessary to ensure that whatever issues or claims pit settlers have against the company including certain claims, are thoroughly looked into.
He also called on the company to also join hands with the government in the assurance to also ensure that whatever grudges or issues raised against them (company and government) are sorted out and dealt with, but reminded pit settlers that they have got to move out.
“Our acceptance of these chupus, is a cultural significance that we also accepted the call and facilitation to move out.
“And the company has the legal right to run all its activities within these pits and as a government, we also respects the lease given to this new GRML set up, and remember also, that since the government’s approval to renew the mining lease over the gold ridge land, you no longer have the legal rights to do anymore activities including further panning for gold,” Mr Tovosia added.
In acceptance of the calls for government’s consideration into people’s issues, the Minister also called on landowners and fellow tribesmen of the 16 landowning tribes to bring their concerns to the government.
“As long as I’m still Minister until my term lapses on the 7th of December, I will see that all your concerns and issues are looked into by the government and see where possible within our capacity, we will deal with them.
The ministry is there for the people, it belongs to the people of Solomon Islands, and issues of relevancy to our ministry should be dealt with at all legal and proper costs,” the mines minister explained.