Giant mining company withdraws from race for Nickel in the country

SUMITOMO Metal Mining Solomon Limited, a subsidiary of Sumitomo Metal Mining Co Ltd (“SMM”) has withdrawn its interest from the nickel exploration project in the country.

The giant mining company made the announcement on Wednesday 9th August 2017.

A statement to this paper stated that SMM will no longer carry on with the project that they started but remain indolent as a result of litigation processes the company faced over the past years.

The reason(s) behind their withdrawal is still not clear but according to the SMM, the decision was made as a result of comprehensive review as the company continues to face business circumstances.

“As the result of our comprehensive review of such business circumstances, the final judgment in the legal proceedings and other factors, SMMS concluded that it is difficult for SMMS to implement the project that SMMS had sought to realize by integrating SMMS’ Own Areas with the International Tender Areas, SMMS has decided to withdraw from Solomon Exploration Project,” the statement said.

The statement further says that SMMS will withdraw from all of its pending applications for mining leases regarding SMMS’ Own Areas and SMMS will cease operation of the company except for those remaining matters arising from the withdrawal.

“We acquired the prospecting license after we obtained the surface access rights from the landowners of the prospecting areas in Choiseul and Isabel, then conducted exploration activities, employ local and also initiate other programmes during the exploration, however all these activities will be put to rest,” the statement said.

SMMS started its acquisition of prospecting licenses and exploration activities in 2005 and completed the activities under prospecting license they acquired on Choiseul province and Isabel province.

In 2014 SMM applied for the mining leases in three areas as part of integrated project (“SMMS’ Own Areas”) but the applications were pendant due to legal proceeding.

SMMS brought legal proceedings against Axiom KB Limited (Axiom) and others regarding the international tender areas in Isabel province (International Tender Areas) because the rights that has been awarded to SMMS had been cancelled.

While waiting for the result of the court decision, SMMS engaged in CSR activities with emphasis on Community Support activities and implemented 5 measures, Clean-up Campaign, Kiko-Clay Stove (a handmade efficient smoke less cooking oven made of local natural materials), Composting, Garden Vegetable Farming, and Home Nutrition Workshop toward building a sustainable healthy families and communities.

The legal proceedings lasted six years until March 2017 and ended with neither SMMS nor Axiom being granted the rights over the International Tender Areas resulting in the nickel price to tumble with market forecast prediction continue to fall into harsh market conditions that lead to a significant change in Solomon Exploration Project.

Giving his last words, the Managing Director of SMM Solomon Limited Mr Yoritoshi Ochi expressed the company’s acknowledgement to the government, provincial government, landowners and individuals who have worked with SMM Solomon Limited.

“We are proud of having completed the exploration based on the Mines and Minerals Act in Solomon Islands.

“We would like to make the following statement of appreciation.

“We greatly appreciate to assistance and help of Solomon Islands Government, Hon. Prime Minister Sogavare and other PMs in the past, Ministers and officers of Ministry of Mines and Energy and Rural Electrification and other government organizations.

“We also give great thanks to premiers and the officers of the provincial government of Choiseul and Isabel.

“We are very grateful to the landowners in Isabel and Choiseul regarding our exploration activities and CSR activities and other related matters.

“We will continue the scholarship system for the students in the prospecting areas of Choiseul and Isabel next year in 2018 as we have since 2012,” he said.

In the meantime, Mr Ochi said SMM Solomon Limited will work in accordance with the Mines and Minerals Act and other related matters after this announcement.

 By Ben Bilua

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