Axiom to begin nickel prospecting in two weeks' time | Pacific Beat

Axiom to begin nickel prospecting in two weeks' time

Axiom to begin nickel prospecting in two weeks' time

Updated 15 February 2012, 12:41 AEDT

The Australian company at the centre of a mining controversy in the Solomon Islands, Axiom Mining Limited is going ahead with its plan to begin prospecting for nickel in two weeks' time.

This is despite a statement from the Prime Minister's Office earlier this week, rejecting the validity of Axiom's prospecting license in Isabel Province.

Axiom's chief executive officer Ryan Mount, says he has not received any official notification on the status of his prospecting license and he is continuing with Axiom's project rollout.

Presenter: Evan Wasuka

Speaker: Ryan Mount, Axiom Mining Limited's Chief Executive

MOUNT: The situation at the moment is we're proceeding with ... of our license. We're going to be initiating prospecting in the next few weeks, and actually today we were up at the Ministry of Mines and we had basically a request for prospecting approved, so we'll be beginning activities in the next two weeks.

WASUKA: So this talk about possible suspension or rejecting your prospecting license, has that come into effect?

MOUNT: I haven't been approached at all by the Prime Minister's office. I'm unaware where these allegations have come from, and I can assure you that we've operated according to the law at all times.

WASUKA: Now just getting back on to the allegations that were levelled in the statement that came out yesterday from the Prime Minister's office, the allegations were about suspicious dealings and with the timing of the letter of intent and the prospecting license. What do you have to say to that about the minister was on his way out when the license was issued?

MOUNT: I can't speak for why the minister was sacked, that was obviously a decision of the cabinet and the Prime Minister. But what I can say is that how Axiom has dealt with this process. At all times we've dealt according to the law, and we made a special situation to ensure that we did that over here, because we understand that this project has been highly - it's a big issue for the Solomon Islands and it just hasn't been developed. So in regards to the letter of intent, the letter of intent was issued to us on the 12th of May. We made a formal application and it was granted to us. We were given two tenements, one on the southern end of Isabel, a place commonly known as Takata, which is owned by the Kolosori people, and another area at the southern end of St George called the ....... people. Now with Takata, which is owned by the Kolosori people, it is actually not customary land, it is actually registered land and it is held by Perpetual Estate by the five trustees of Kolosori. So this is the main reason why we were able to accelerate the process in securing the prospecting license. Since the government of the Solomon Islands had already legally identified the true landowners, when we were given the letter of intent we provided them with the service access agreement, it was to their satisfaction, they signed it there and then. We submitted it to the Ministry of Mines, they submitted it to the Attorney General's office, it was approved there, from there it was sent to the Ministry of Mines, and from there we were granted our prospecting license. A few days later on Monday I was informed that the Minister had been sacked along with a few other ministers. I cannot comment on that at all other than to say that we definitely followed the legal process. And I think it's important to note in that that this is a Perpetual Estate, Axiom had nothing to do with the registering of land. In actual fact the landowners here have been proceeding through this land acquisition process since 1992, it was finally signed off by the High Court and Magistrate Court in 2008, and in February this year they were granted their Perpetual Estate title from the Lands Commission.

WASUKA: According to the statement that came out yesterday, the question of the landowners that you're dealing with, they questioned that the Prime Minister's office would be still looking at who the proper customary landowners were?

MOUNT: To be honest I encourage the Prime Minister's office to investigate this. I think we need to clear this up, and I encourage any investigation into this, and I make myself available to anyone within the government to scrutinise our activities and who the landowners are. And just for clarification of who we signed with and identifying the true landowners, again we sought out who the landowners were, but it was the government of the Solomon Islands and the court of the Solomon Islands who's already identified the landowners.

WASUKA: So if everything is above board and Axiom dealt with the situation properly and legally, why do you think the statement came out yesterday from the Prime Minister's office?

MOUNT: Well I'm not prepared to say why what's happening in the Prime Minister's office, but what I can say is it's quite obvious that there is other foreign companies after this asset and I wouldn't be surprised if they're trying to meddle in local affairs here. Now I can't verify if this statement did come out of the Prime Minister's office or not, but all I can say is I have not been approached by anyone. As I said today it's up to the Ministry of Mines and they basically signed off on us prospecting, which will begin in two weeks' time.

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