Auckland based mineral explorers
are drilling their way into a “monster” gold
and copper lode in the troubled Solomon Islands .
London Stock Exchange AIM listed Solomon Gold plc says they
believe they have discovered high grade gold and copper
deposits in Sutakiki in the rugged central mountains of
They say Sutakiki “is potentially a ‘monster’”,
while neighbouring sites over a 50 square kilometre area
show signs of extensive mineralisation.
Solomon Gold’s exploration subsidiary, Australian
Resources Management (ARM), has hired Manurewa based Board
Longyear New Zealand Ltd to drill a series of exploratory
wells across the prospect.
A four man team arrived in the capital Honiara on Monday.
Its drill rig and equipment will be flown in by helicopter
to various sites around 20 minutes due south of the main
airport at Henderson Field.
ARM operations manager David Jelley told Fairfax from Honiara
yesterday that an Australian drill team had already begun
drilling and they were awaiting assays results from its
The drilling programme could go on for years with up to
500 holes needed.
“Depending on the size of the thing it is going to
take an enormous number of holes if it is as big as we think,”
Mr Jelley said.
“The indications we are seeing on the ground and the
results from the first hole, the observations from the first
drill hole, we’ve hit something large….
“It’s a positive spin … because we honestly
believe we have hit something big and we also believe we
have a lot of other prospects in the country.”
Mr Jelley said it had always been postulated that the Solomons
was gold rich: “It’s just a matter of getting
out and further exploring it.”
The Suva based multi-government South Pacific Applied Geoscience
Commission in 2001 said the “ Solomon Islands was
perhaps the most prospective of the Pacific island nations
for minerals after Papua New Guinea (PNG).”
Melanesia is proving a lucrative if troubled region for
miners. The Freeport-McMoRan owned Grasberg mine in Indonesia
’s West Papua is the largest gold mine in the world
and the third largest copper mine. To the east in PNG the
BHP Billiton owned Ok Tedi is the world’s largest
copper mine and has substantial gold deposits. PNG’s
Lahir Island , east of the main island, 42 million ounces
(Moz) of Gold Equivalent Value hosts one of the largest
New Caledonia hosts the world’s largest nickel deposits.
Solomon Gold’s major worry will however be two mining
controversies. Just across the north-western maritime Solomon’s
border with PNG then Australian miner Conzinc Riotinto opened
one of the world’s largest open pit mines in Panguna,
Bougainville. Local landowners objected and the island descended
into a decade long civil war. The mine has never reopened.
Just 12 kilometres north of Sutakiki , Australia ’s
Ross Mining opened its Gold Ridge mine in 1998 – just
as Guadalcanal descended into civil war.
Australian Solomons Gold – unrelated the London listed
stock – is now redeveloping the mine. It is expected
to reopen at the end of this year producing 150,000 ounces
of gold a year.
Gold Ridge is listed as a 2 Moz resource – in New
Zealand ’s Waihi Gold district has yielded, over its
life time, a total of 8 Moz gold and 49 Moz silver.
The Solomon Islands has been populated for around 5000 years
with Spanards led by Alvaro de Mendana in 1568. Spanish
geographers named it believing it was the site of the Biblical
King Solomon Mines – although commercial gold has
only recently been discovered.