The Gold Ridge Mine, Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands’ first gold mine: a case study in stakeholder consultation
Donn H. Tolia, M. G. Petterson, 2005. "The Gold Ridge Mine, Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands’ first gold mine: a case study in stakeholder consultation", Sustainable Minerals Operations in the Developing World, B. R. Marker, M. G. Petterson, F. McEvoy, M. H. Stephenson
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The Pacific small island state of Solomon Islands gained independence from Britain in 1978. Solomon Islands has a population of around 400 000 mainly Melanesian people distributed across six moderately sized islands and hundreds of smaller islands. The traditional economy has been based on hunter-gatherer and small-scale farming activities, with the bulk of the population residing in self-sufficient rainforest and coastal villages. Melanesians have a particularly strong cultural attachment to land, which is considered to be within the custodianship of the community at large. Individual land ownership in the Western economic sense is largely unknown. Melanesian society and culture is strong and complex. Colonial and post-independence Solomon Islands has had to face the challenges of a transition from a traditional society to a partially urbanized society and a rapidly increasing population and changing economic drivers and dynamics. Mining and mineral development is one area of economic activity that holds the promise of generating hard currency quickly to develop the country, but that needs to be achieved in a sustainable manner. Gold Ridge is situated in Central Guadalcanal, some 22 km southeast of the country’s capital town, Honiara. Gold Ridge hosts around 1.4 million ounces of epithermal volcanic-hosted gold. Ross Mining NL began the construction of Solomon Islands’ first gold mine in 1997 and operated a highly successful gold mine between 1997 and 2000, when ethnic tensions (unrelated to the mine) closed the operations. This paper documents the painstaking negotiations and planning that took place from 1993 and particularly from 1995–1996 which paved the way forward for the development of a gold mine within a fragile tropical rainforest environment among traditional Melanesian people who had little prior knowledge of modern mining activities.
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Sustainable Minerals Operations in the Developing World
The sustainable development of minerals, which are non-renewable resources, is a major challenge in today’s world. In this regard the true definition of sustainability’ is a debating point in itself: can such a concept exist with respect to non-renewable resources? Perhaps the ideal sustainability model is one that minimizes negative environmental impact and maximizes benefits to society, the economy and regional/national development. Developed and near-developed economies rely for commodity supplies on developing countries where major mining operations are often a mainstay of the domestic economy. Limited environmental regulation and low wages lead to charges of exploitation. Also, large numbers of people have no alternative to living by informal, often dangerous, ‘artisanal’ mining. This Special Publication gives examples from developing countries at all scales of mineral extraction. The volume reviews environmental, economic, health and social problems and highlights the need to solve these before sustainability can be achieved. The better solutions require mutual understanding, through full involvement of all stakeholders, education, training and investment so that small-scale ansd artisinal mines can grow into well-managed operations. At larger scales, most major interantional mining companies have now inoproved their practices and are monitoring their progress, although there is no room for complacency in this rapidly changing area.