Solomons gold mine up for sale

Radio New Zealand

Australian owner of Solomon’s gold mine, St Barbara says it has not ruled out third party sale of the project.

The owner of Solomon Islands closed Gold Ridge gold mine says it is still getting third party interest in buying the mine despite ongoing negotiations to transfer ownership to the Solomon Islands government.

Negotiations between the previous Solomons government and Australian based St Barbara were well advanced last year but the company has had to start from scratch with the new government coming into power in November.

St Barbara’s chief executive Bob Vassie told Koroi Hawkins he is keeping an open mind in considering the future of the mine.

BOB VASSIE:  We still have plans to see if we can transfer the assets to the Solomon Islands government. Obviously there has been a change in government in November so we are having to sort of reinitiate that with a new government and new ministers.

KOROI HAWKINS: Also you spoke very strongly about the tailings dam facility and being concerned about dealing with that. So far it seems it hasn’t overflowed, what is the situation now?

BV: You are right it hasn’t overflowed and you are also correct I remain very concerned about that and in fact am more concerned with each passing day. I think it hasn’t been the high level rainfall that you would normally get over the November, December, January time but if we recall the big floods of April last year which actually ceased the operation at that time. It just shows you that you could be a day away from the tailings storage facility overflowing. Probably one that may be of interest is that the World Health Organisation has been engaged by the Solomon Islands Government. We think that is a very positive step, they are due to deliver their report shortly. And we are hopeful that it will support release of the water but we will have to see the final report.

KH: I spoke with Prime Minister Sogavare before coming back to Wellington while I was still in Honiara and he seemed to be keen to separate the tailings dam from the issue of the transfer of ownership. Is that something St Barbara is happy with?

BV: Look I think that is entirely rational, I guess they need to understand what a transfer might mean and that it would take some more time I agree. And the tailings water facility issue is an urgent, current issue. If we are able to get that sorted out it does not weaken either sides position on a transfer but I am just not happy with the mounting risk of an overflow with the tailings storage facility.

KH: So it is not that case the St Barbara is trying to push both subjects sort of through the pipe, getting the tailings dam sorted and the transfer of ownership done at the same time?

BV: We are pushing both aspects but the tailings facility is more urgent and our main push has been on the tailings storage facility.

KH: How long are you prepared to wait on the Solomon Islands government before you decide maybe to put it out on the open market?

BV: The property itself was on the open market, you know ideas or interests from third parties has always been ongoing before, into the second half of last year. There actually is still some interest out there given that the gold price has increased in recent times so we would still consider third party interests and it is quite possible that the government would want to go that way as well if it meant there was a prospect of the operations coming back on line.

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Filed under Environmental impact, Financial returns, Solomon Islands

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