San Jorge nickel ores pose no risk

A recent mining exploration on Isabel Province. Photo by Axiom Mining Solomon Islands.
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The more than 70,000 metric tonnes of nickel ores lying idle on San Jorge, Isabel province doesn’t pose any high risk to human lives.

Director of Mines, Nicholas Biliki revealed this to journalists during the reporting workshop on extractive industries and endemic species in Solomon Islands at Heritage Park Hotel last Thursday.

People living close to the mine site have expressed their fears on the environmental impacts on their resources caused by nickel ores that remained on their land since September 2019.

They claimed during rainy weather, it caused soil erosion which washed down the sentiments from the ores into the pristine Thousand Ships Bay.

However, Biliki said these are lateritic nickel ore deposits that have less acids because they were found only on the surface.

He said lateritic nickel doesn’t have contents that are risk to human lives.

However, he said its economic value may deteriorate if it is not exported.

According to reports, the nickel ores on San Jorge costs around $171 million (US$20 million) to $256 million (US$30m) in the markets.

Axiom Mining Limited (AML) which has a lease on the tenement could not export the minerals after the government refused to grant them an export permit.

The Mines and Mineral Board rejected Axiom Mining Ltd’s application for an export permit citing the company does not have a Provincial Business licence from Isabel Government.

Axiom has already filed a judicial review in the High Court against the decision of the Minerals Board, as well as a misfeasance claim against the Minister of Mines Bradley Tovosia and Director of Mines Nicholas Biliki.

The reason was they failed to properly exercise their powers under Regulations 70 and 71 of the Mines and Minerals Regulations pertaining to the company’s export permit application.

Previously, Biliki said the minerals are still the property of Axiom because they have the lease over the tenement.

Biliki said government cannot interfere when the issue is before the court and Axiom owns the lease as well.