29 Aug 2013

Transparency Solomon Islands asks why illegal mining continues

4:57 pm on 29 August 2013

Transparency Solomon Islands wants to know why the government and the owners of the country's only goldmine are not making any effort to stop illegal extraction.

The group's chairperson, Ruth Liloqula, who also works for Gold Ridge Mine Mining Limited, says up to 200 people are panning gold illegally from the pits every day.

She says corrupt dealerships have sprung up to buy the gold from the growing number of unlawful miners coming to the Guadalcanal site from all over the country. Annell Husband spoke to her.

RUTH LILOQULA: Politicians, even students and other people that don't... when you look at it that don't really have the money to be gold dealers. The money is coming from somewhere else for them to buy the illegal gold.

ANNELL HUSBAND: Right. So they're just being used as front people?

RL: Yes. They're being used as front people, and what concerns us is that there is no check from the government to look at who is doing this, because a huge amount of money is going out of the country, or the government is not benefitting much in the way of taxes, on licenses, no other landowners are getting any royalty from the export of this gold that is being illegally mined and sold.

AH: And I guess the price is being undercut, as well.

RL: Yes, the price is being undercut. They pay them very little. And we don't have this level or this magnitude of illegal miners previously. Last year we don't have that and previously something that has just come on because there's so much interest in gold all of a sudden, where corrupt activities have come up to support this. So really what I'm seeing here is that unless the government acts, there is no way that the only mining company we have in the country is going to solve the problem of illegal miners, because the people that have been licenced to deal in gold are the ones that are encouraging this practise, which makes the government lose, makes the landowners lose, and also the company that is mining. Because this gold is coming from inside the mine. The government under the act think that we have license to export and mine alluvial gold. At the moment that is not what is going out, it is the colluvial gold that is going out of the country and being melted down and put into other... They wear them as a necklace or jewellery to get it outside of the country. There's political involvement, so it's pretty difficult. We know for certain that a minister is being licensed as a gold dealer.