The Minister of Mines, Energy and Rural Electricity, David Day Pacha has appointed members of an Isabel Nickel International Tender committee.

The Tender Committee comprises of representatives from the Ministry of Mines, Energy and Rural Electricity, Ministry of Finance, the Foreign Investment Division of the Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Employment, Central Bank, the Isabel Provincial Government and Landowners of the nickel prospect sites.

He says the committee's main duties are to formalize the tender process, receive, identify, assess and select the best bidder before advising the Minister through the Minerals Board of its decision. Mr Pacha says the committee will hold its first meeting this week.

He says the reasons for the delay in getting the tender process out earlier were due to various technical and legal issues and not due to financial constraint as reported in the media.

A reliable source familiar with the nickel industry says that this could be "a catalyst for the Solomon Islands economy."

"The demand for stainless steel is growing very fast, and this accounts for almost 54% of nickel consumption in the USA alone and more than 60% in other countries," the source said.

The source said that the demand for nickel has grown at a rate of 4% per year during the past decade, with 7% growth seen during the past two years alone - far greater than any other mineral on the market.

"People were predicting two years ago that within five years nickel would be traded at the US$10,000-12,000/ tonne range, that prediction was surpassed with the price peaking at US$17,000/tonne in January this year."

The source said that it is important that the Tender Committee "search widely and choose wisely, since there are many speculators keen to get their hands on the license."