Australian firm secures Solomons nickel deal
AUSTRALIAN mining company Axiom has secured what it says is one of the world’s largest nickel deposits under a 50-year deal in the Solomon Islands.
Independent research for Axiom showed the deposit held close to 160 million tonnes of nickel ore, with an estimated value of almost $ 60 billion dollars.
Axiom CEO Ryan Mount said the Solomons deposit was the ‘‘ jewel in the crown’’ among the company’s tenements in North Queensland and Vietnam.
Mr Mount said the lease, covering 45sq km on Santa Isabel island, was signed last week in the Solomons capital of Honiara after months of negotiations.
The result was a coup for the Australian company as Tokyo-based Sumitomo Metal Mining had been working hard to secure the tenement.
‘‘ Many companies in Australia and throughout Asia have been trying to secure this site for decades,’’ Mr Mount said. ‘‘ We were successful because we tried it a different way. Rather than top down, we are building this project from the bottom up, by dealing directly with the landowners.’’
Mr Mount said Axiom was establishing an office in Honiara and would apply for a prospecting licence as soon as possible.
Axiom had formed a joint venture with the local Kolosoria nd Bungusule Landowner Trustee groups, with Axiom holding 80 per cent, Mr Mount said.
Resource Capital Research says the deposit is shallow and contains 159 million t onnes of ore averaging 1.045 per cent nickel and .06 per cent cobalt.
The resource has not been developed previously due to low nickel prices, landowner issues and political disputes.
The Solomons’ government put the site out for tenders in March last year, but the deposit has been known for more than 50 years.
Another Australian company, Allied Gold, is expecting its Gold Ridge project in the Solomons to produce its first gold this month.