Axiom Mining’s licences over a nickel laterite deposit on the Solomon Islands has been set aside, ending another chapter in the five-year running dispute over land leasing.
Earlier this week the Solomon Islands Court of Appeal unanimously ruled that the land where the Isabel nickel deposit is located should remain customary land, removing the prospecting licences from Axiom and their competitor Sumitomo Metal Mining (SMM) Solomon.
It was held that SMM Solomon was not entitled to a prospecting licence as it had breached banking conditions by holding three prospecting licences in other areas of the Solomon Islands without conducting appropriate work in those areas.
Joint venture Axiom KB, 20 per cent owned by landholders, lost validity of its lease and prospecting licence because of errors made by the commissioner of lands.
The JV was ordered to pay legal costs of the customary landholders who disputed claims over the land.
Axiom CEO Ryan Mount said the company remained optimistic and would continue to invest in the Solomon Islands.
“Axiom has developed a strong relationship with landowners in Isabel and together we have started the process of re-applying to develop the project,” he said.
The company stated it would announce further details next week about discussions with the Solomon Islands government in relation to its San Jorge tenement.
It is understood Sumitomo may be able to reapply for licences in the same area, but only if it relinquishes other holdings.
A statement from the Solomon Islands government said: "With the legal battle now out of the way, the Government, through the Department of Mines, can now start the process of ensuring a reputable mining company develops the nickel project."
Mount said the court did not make any adverse findings against Axiom, suggesting that the statement (which implied disreputable conduct) was issued without the correct clearance.
“Our conversations with the Prime Minister's office have been somewhat apologetic for that and I dare say there will be a clarification," he told the ABC.
"In actual fact, the Government has said they are looking forward to our reapplication which we have already lodged.”