Mine occupiers claim police harassed them

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FILE PHOTO: Police maintain law and order during an awareness programme at one of the se lements at Gold Ridge. PHOTO SUPPLIED
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By EDDIE OSIFELO

LEADERS of Verahurua and Kokori Communities in Gold Ridge, Central Guadalcanal, claimed they were intimidated and harassed by the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force.

In a letter sent to RSIPF Commissioner Mostyn Mangau on Monday this week they informed the conduct of members of police sent purportedly to keep law and order while “an unlawful forced eviction of settlers is being conducted by Gold Ridge Mining Limited”.

“Condition for us to move out of the Mining Lease Area was agreed to with the previous owners of the mine,” the community leaders wrote in the letter.

“We expect the new owners to respect the existing agreements and will not vacate our settlements without the new owners agreeing to consider what was previously agreed to with previous owners,” they added.

Australia’s Santa Barbara last operated Gold Ridge but left in 2014 after its operation was affected by flash floods.

It sold the mine to landowners for $500.

Currently the landowners registered under Goldridge Community Investments Ltd (GCIL) are partnering with Australian-based Chinese company AXF and China’s Wanguo Mining International.

The landowners requested the Police Commissioner to investigate allegations that members of the force had been involved in the dismantling and burning down of dwellings during the eviction exercise and further refrain from sending officers without proper authorization and supervision.

However, Chairman of GCIL, Walton Naezon said the allegation was not true because they gave them eviction notices and held talks with them before carrying out the exercise.

Naezon said they removed people living around pit 1 and pit 2 of the mine site.

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He said next week they will remove people living around pit 3 and pit 4.

Furthermore, Naezon said most of the people are not original landowners but those that relocated from Lunga to the mine site after the ethnic tension in 2001.

In another letter, the landowners claimed they have outstanding issues with former owner St Barbara before it left.

They want the new owners to settle the claims before they can move out of the mining lease area.

Some of the claims including building schools, clinic, water supply, renovation of houses and supply of gardening tools etc.

Furthermore, the Chief of Verahura also asked the government to secure Tataona customary land for new resettlement away from the mining lease area.

They want the company to prepare $10,000 for the potters of each family; payoff their properties; set aside package for youths; build houses for newly wed and etc.

The Kokori want the company to complete last trance of $700,000 before they leave.

Naezon said some of the demands are part of the agreement which the company will honor.

He said building school, clinic, water supply and others are part of the medium- and long-term plan of the company.

Naezon encouraged people who are not happy to fill up the grievance form at the boom gate so he can deal with their issues.

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