Solomon Islands Prime Minister Gordon Darcy Lilo has announced that the Solomon Islands Government and St Barbara Ltd are negotiating for the possible transfer of ownership of St Barbara’s troubled Gold Ridge mine to the government.

St Barbara late last week confirmed that constructive negotiations for the mutual benefit of both parties are continuing. Operations at the mine remain suspended.

The suspension was implemented in April this year due to torrential rainfall and ensuing flooding. The company has been unable to resume production due to a number of factors beyond its control, including the loss of stable bridge access across the Tinahulu River on the public road to site, and the continued presence of large numbers of illegal miners camped in the open pit mining areas.

The Force Majeure conditions announced in April remain in place. Since returning to site in June, the company has prepared the processing plant for care and maintenance, and commenced lowering the water levels in the tailings storage facility in accordance with the site stabilization plan submitted to the Solomon Islands Government.

St Barbara Ltd’s Solomon Islands’ subsidiary Gold Ridge Mining Ltd (GRML) announced on August 13 that it had withdrawn personnel from the mine following a serious escalation in security and associated safety concerns.

At the time GRML director Bob Vassie said, “Safety is the company’s highest priority. We have taken the decision to withdraw our employees from site because we cannot assure their continued safety and security in the current circumstances.”

The decision to withdraw all staff from the Gold Ridge site last week followed a number of recent serious security incidents which have been growing in frequency and severity. These incidents have been reported to the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force (RSIPF). Bob Vassie said that subsequent to the withdrawal of GRML personnel from site, a number of people from local communities and illegal miners had entered the mine site and the RSIPF was in attendance.

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