Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare yesterday stated that he is satisfied with the progress of the Gold Ridge Mining project in Central Guadalcanal.

Mr Sogavare said the project is an important investment for the national economy as well as the image of Solomon Islands overseas. The Prime Minister made the remarks after a presentation was made to cabinet members by top officials of Australia Solomons Gold (ASG) limited yesterday.

He said although the actual gold pour is forthcoming the company has already contributed financially to the economy through capital and infrastructural development.

The aim of the presentation was to inform the Cabinet on the progress of the Gold Ridge Project and also to raise awareness on the requirements of the Project from the advancement to the production stages. "The mining project is very important to the economy and the image of this country internationally. "The government supports this investment and we'd like to see it progress soon," Mr Sogavare said.

Top ASG officials including Chief Executive Officer (CEO) John Bovard, made presentations which ranged from the current progress on the mine site redevelopment, exploration, relocation, the environmental aspects of the project and the potential cash benefits to government and landowners.

The project is estimated to inject a total of more than SBD$300 million in its first 7 years of Gold production. The Government is expected to receive SBD$251 million in share of royalties and direct taxes. The landowners are expected to receive SBD$52 million and Guadalcanal province SBD$13 million in share of royalties.

Mr Bovard anticipated the project is expected to create more than 500 jobs for locals when gold production starts in 2009. The company currently employs over 200 locals to redevelop the mine after it was closed at the height of the social unrest in 2000.

He said the company is now working closely with landowners to settle the issue of relocation - which is one of the prime steps towards mining operation.
"The Relocation Village is held up awaiting the land to build the houses and people living on the Mining Lease need to move off the Lease area into the Village," he said.

The ASG team also informed cabinet of the important processes taken to ensure strict standards of environmental management is applied when gold processing begins in 2009.

Exploration Manager Tony Field said ASG is adopting an open and transparent approach to reducing environmental impacts. He said an independent environmental assessment group is monitoring the environmental issues linked to the mine.

"We are currently conducting extensive river monitoring to ensure our operation is protective of human health and environment," Mr Field said.