23 Mar 2016

Solomons' govt retracts release on Court's nickel decision

5:21 pm on 23 March 2016

The Solomon Islands prime minister's office has retracted a press statement it issued two days ago on the Court of Appeal decision over an Isabel Province nickel licence.

The decision involved Sumitomo Metal Mining (SMM) Ltd and Axiom KB Ltd.

On Monday, the Solomons' government put out a press release, saying it welcomed the Court's decision, but it now says this was erroneous and misrepresented the prime minister and his government.

The prime minister's office said its original press statement quoted the prime minister but he had never expressed the government's position on the issue.

It said while the government welcomed the ruling it was solely because a long-running battle had now ended, paving the way for the resumption of processes to have the Isabel nickel projects on track again.

Axiom drilling activity on Isabel Nickel Project.

Axiom drilling activity on Isabel Nickel Project. Photo: Supplied

Secondly, the office also said its statement might have wrongly implied government endorsement of one company over the other based on the Court ruling and that one company was more reputable than the other, which was not the case.

It said the office of the prime minister would like to apologise if its statement was interpreted in this manner by the management, the board and shareholders of Axiom KB Limited, and expressly withdrew it.

It also apologised if the implication of the press release meant that Axiom Mining Ltd and Axiom KB Limited were not reputable mining companies.

The Solomons' government said it was mindful that the court ruling ensures both companies applications for mining of nickel in the Isabel tenements were again on the drawing board, offering a level-playing field for all parties to start again.

Thirdly, the office of the prime minister understood the press statement had been carried out of context by the international media that might potentially undermine the reputation of one company over the other outside of Solomon Islands.

The office of the prime minister wanted to assure both companies the government was mindful of the high international regard for each of the companies in their countries of origin, Australia and Japan.

It said it would like to apologise to the parties concerned for any inconvenience, financial strain or ill-feeling that the erroneous press release might have caused to them and their stakeholders.