BY GARY HATIGEVA
THE partnership company, consisting of the Gold Ridge landowners and two merging investors, is moving forward with plans to reopen the former St Barbaras Gold Mining Ltd now Gold Ridge Mining Limited (GRML) which was closed in 2015.
In an official statement on the relocation of people panning in the mine’s pits and operational overall status, Chairman of Wanguo International Mining Group, one of the major partners in the new operation and Chairman-Elect of GRML, Mingqing Gao, said preparations are currently underway and are on track.
“We are on track for trial production at the end of quarter one, the start of quarter two in 2019, but without the movement of people out of the pits as soon as possible we are in danger of this deadline pushing out even further.
“We must all support each other, and this is what Chiefs and landowners are showing today [yesterday], you are showing that landowners in the Solomon Islands and more particularly of Gold Ridge Mine understand what it means to own and operate a mine.
“Landowners know that gold recovery is critical to the improved profitability of the mine. We are working hard in the development of the Feasibility Study to improve gold recovery significantly from what it was in the past.
“No stone is being left unturned. We are investigating new technologies and innovations and re-examining old ways of doing things, and the results are looking very promising,” Mr Gao explained.
He said the company is now looking forward to sharing the results of the Feasibility Study and the projected benefits with landowners of Gold Ridge Mine in the coming months at the technical awareness sessions that will be done with GCIL and across communities.
In addition, Minister for Mines and Energy, Bradley Tovosia MP, in an earlier interview agreed that things are moving forward. “There will be a progression plan,” he said.
Tovosia said he has also met with company officials who informed him the hiring process will be gradual, starting off with about 50 employees and then increasing from there.
Based on his conversations with GRML officials, he said it may take almost a year before gold is extracted from the mine.
“It’s not like you just go in and turn on the light switch,” Tovusia stressed.
This was something Benjamin Afuga, one of GCIL directors and a GRML member in the board of directors also agreed to, whom in an earlier interview also explained that having a qualified workforce is one of the key components for all companies.
“The success of any company is driven by the skills and abilities of its workforce,” he said. “They will be looking for a range of skill sets.”
He said the partnership had already included experts in their fields within the operations, but added that with removal of people from the four major pits, and hiring of more personals, work proper will eventuate, which includes the cleaning up of sites, installation of new machineries, and maintenance of existing ones.
Active operations at the mine were shuttered over two years ago after a natural disaster struck the region, which affected the company both in its infrastructures and finance, and has also changed the former company’s business priorities, which saw about 200 people left without jobs.
However, as far as contribution by investors is also concerned, a capital expenditure of up to AUD$90 million is expected by project owners, which according to the company, will depend on the final plan and design of the mine as contained in the Feasibility Study, and an allocation so that the mine can start with a good cash-flow and operating budget.