Oct 20, 2017 Last Updated 8:27 AM, Oct 20, 2017

Battle for power

A worker for Sumitomo offloads steel pipes at the mine site in Isabel Province. Below: The ASX-listed Axiom took its fight against Sumitomo to court but neither won the fight. A worker for Sumitomo offloads steel pipes at the mine site in Isabel Province. Below: The ASX-listed Axiom took its fight against Sumitomo to court but neither won the fight. Photos: File
Published in 2017 September
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Australian, Japanese firms fight over deposits

THIS year marks the 70th year of the end of the war in the Solomons. Yet the battle over natural resources in these islands ended in the courts just months ago and there were no winners.

In fact the biggest loser has been the Solomon Islands in terms of lost opportunities for investment and job creation. The Australian media has tried to portray this as an epic David versus Goliath battle. In this case a small Australian mining company has been stripped of its rights to one of the Pacific’s biggest greenfield nickel laterite deposits, after a decision by the Solomon Islands Court of Appeal.

ASX-listed Axiom Mining has battled long and hard with the Japanese giant, Sumitomo Metal Mining (SMM) Solomon Islands Limited for control of the deposit in Isabel Province. Three overseas judges of the Solomon Islands Court of Appeal quashed ministerial approval of Axiom’s prospecting licences, finding that the transfer of land registration to Axiom’s landowner partners had not been completed properly and so was invalid.

“It is a setback, but it is not a major or material setback from our point of view,” said Axiom Mining’s chief executive officer Ryan Mount. ‘Most important case’ on land since independence.”

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