The Solomon Islands Government appears to be clearing the path to reopening the Gold Ridge Gold Project as soon as practically possible, supported by the local community. The project has not operated since April 2014 when St Barbara Ltd closed it following flash flooding.
Recent media reports have stated that the Cabinet Sub Committee on Gold Ridge, is finalising work to ensure the relevant framework is in place for the mine to re-open the mine, including reinstating the mining lease. Re-opening the mine is said to be one of the main developmental targets of the Democratic Coalition for Change Government (DCCG).
Negotiations between the resource owners, investor and the government are progressing towards reaching an amicable settlement that could see the mine reopened within the tenure of the DCCG.
Gold Ridge is on Guadalcanal, about 30km southeast of the capital Honiara. The mine was operated by Ross Mining and Delta Gold Ltd between 1998 and 2000 but had to be abandoned because of civil unrest. In 2003 it was acquired from the political risk insurers by Australian Solomons Gold. Allied Gold acquired the company in 2010 and subsequently rebuilt the mine with production restarting at the end of 2010.
In August 2012, the assets of Allied Gold were acquired by St Barbara, including Gold Ridge Mining Limited. Gold Ridge was the only operating mine in the country at this time, and contributed approximately 20% of GDP.
A cyclone in 2014 caused flooding and the mine was closed with St Barbara employees subsequently banned by the government from re-entering the country.
Gold Ridge was sold by St Barbara for A$100 to a landowner-controlled company GoldRidge Community Investment Limited (GCIL) in May 2015. GCIL has a minority stake in the project with the majority owned by AXF Resources, which is a private company based in Australia but owned by Chinese interests.
GCIL chairperson Walter Naezon told the media that AXF wanted to begin reconstruction of the mine in early February provided the lease had been reinstated. He said it was projected that the cost of bringing the mine back into production would be between $US80 million and $90 million.
“There are two things, one is to start the mine, doing the roads, rehabilitating the mill, doing constructions and doing explorations and assessing the tailings dam. Those are mining activities that can be taking place quickly from February upward. For the actual production we are looking at the end of 2018,” he said.
A statement on the AXF website says, “AXF has partnered with local landowner group, GoldRidge Community Investment Limited, and aims to repair, refurbish and upgrade the Gold Ridge plant to bring it back into operation.”