Concept: Mining

Alternative Names
  • Gold Ridge


In the sixteenth century, the Mendãna expedition, searching for the source of King Solomon's fabled wealth, found traces of gold on Guadalcanal, the first incidence of Europeans exploring the Solomon Islands for mineral wealth. During the nineteenth century there was mineral exploration around New Guinea. In the 1880s, substantial alluvial finds in the Louisiade Archipelago off east New Guinea encouraged beliefs that minerals were waiting to be found in Island Melanesia. A San Francisco company visited the Solomons in 1897, searched for gold and copper at Maru Bay on Makira, and found small amounts of silver. They also looked for a cliff of copper said to exist on Rennell Island, and applied for the Protectorate's first prospecting licence. (Heath 1981; AR 1897-1898) In 1900, another expedition prospected for copper on Rendova Island. (AR 1900-1901, 13) Gold was found in northwest New Georgia in July 1929, and although there was no proof that there were payable quantities, eighty Miner's Rights and eight Prospecting Licences were issued. (AR 1929, 5) Extensive geological surveys (q.v.) began in the 1950s.

Gold Ridge, Guadalcanal

Resident Commissioner Woodford (q.v.) was aware of small coal deposits at the mouth of Guadalcanal's Ithina River, and mineral samples gathered from that island in 1896, just before the Protectorate was established and again in the 1920s, showed high quantities of gold and copper and encouraged further prospecting. (AR 1898-1899, 20, 30) In 1930-1931, botanist S. F. Kajewski from the University of Queensland discovered payable quantities of gold. This attracted small-scale prospectors to the Tsarivonga and Sorvohio rivers and to Gold Ridge, and then later to the Sutakiki River beyond Gold Ridge. In the late 1930s, the Western Pacific High Commission tried to encourage Queensland mining magnate and politician E.T. Theodore to invest in a Guadalcanal mine, but after a visit he chose not to proceed. Then, in 1941, Theodore, already involved in Fiji's Emperor Mine, began Solomons Gold Exploration Ltd. and was awarded a prospecting agreement over one-third of Guadalcanal, but operations were halted by the war. Small-scale alluvial mining also proceeded during the 1930s. Theodore's company withdrew in 1946, leaving the gold fields to small-scale prospectors. During 1948 and 1949, geologist E. R. Hudson examined the Balasuna Syndicate's leases at Gold Ridge on behalf of Australia's Broken Hill Pty. Ltd.

In 1952, Bulolo Gold Dredging Co. from New Guinea drilled a portion of the local Balasuna Syndicate's lease on the Kovagombi area of Sorvohio Valley alluvial goldfields, but then withdrew because the Territory of Papua New Guinea administration would not extend the contracts of its New Guinea labourers. Also in 1952, the Anglo-Oriental (Malaya) Ltd. searched for gold on Guadalcanal and Malaita, and took out Prospecting Leases on Guadalcanal. A new gold-bearing lode was discovered in 1955 at Gold Ridge, centred on Kuper's Creek. Clutha Development Co developed the project using twenty-five New Guinea labourers and training forty Solomon Islanders. (AR 1959-1960, 31)

In 1960, Oil Search Ltd. of Australia made preliminary gravity surveys on the Guadalcanal Plains. These revealed that they concealed an uplifted block, which divided the potential oil basin into two parts on a northerly axis from Gold Ridge to Tetere. Oil Search withdrew from further exploration, but this concealed structure extended the known gold-producing area. In the lead-up to independence in 1978, the Protectorate Government once more attempted to attract a mining company, and in 1974 leased the Gold Ridge prospect to CRA Exploration Ltd. Evidence mounted that open-cut mining was economically possible, although the samples never indicated large deposits. Once more, no capital was forthcoming and hopes evaporated as the 1970s progressed.

Gold Ridge went through a series of company hands in the 1980s and 1990s and eventually a mine began gold production in the late 1990s, only to stop during the 'Crisis' years, 1998-2003. It slowly came back on stream during 2010-2011. (Moore 2004b, 83-88)


Prospecting for nickel began on Isabel Island in 1965. Sample nickel mining began there in 1966, and an airstrip was constructed on contiguous San Jorge Island. The company was International Nickel (Southern Exploration) Ltd., and the trail consignment of 50 tons of ore was shipped to Canada. The company applied for a prospecting license over 322 square miles of land on Isabel and San Jorge Islands. In 1967, the company was granted an Interim Permit to Mine at Suma for one year. (NS 21 Jan. 1967, 15 Jan. 1968; AR 1967, 42)


Manganese deposits were discovered on Isabel, in the Nggela Islands and on Makira. (AR 1959-1960, 31)


Copper was found in the Koloula Valley area of Guadalcanal in 1960. Mitsui Mining and Smelting Co., from Japan, investigated these deposits in 1968.

(NS 15 Nov. 1968)


An Australian company applied for a licence to prospect for bauxite on Santa Cruz in 1968. Amex Bauxite Corporation of Perth applied for the licence to cover land around the mouths of Luembo and Nambaul Rivers and Trevanion Island, more than thirty-seven thousand acres in all. Mitsui Mining amd Smelting Company of Japan began prospecting on Rennell Island in 1969.

(NS 31 Dec. 1968, 31 Jan. 1970; Smith 2011, 54-59)


The British Phosphate Commissioners sent a party to Bellona Island in November 1960 with a view to mining high-grade phosphate deposits, which in the eastern part of the island underlie lower-grade material. (AR 1959-1960, 32)

Related Concepts

Published resources


  • Moore, Clive, Happy Isles in Crisis: The Historical Causes for a Failing State in Solomon Islands, 1998-2004, Asia Pacific Press, Canberra, 2004b, ix, 265 pp. Details
  • Smith, John, An Island in Autumn, Librario Publishing, Moray, Scotland, 2011. Details


  • British Solomon Islands Protectorate (ed.), British Solomon Islands Protectorate News Sheet (NS), 1955-1975. Details

Journal Articles

  • Heath, Ian, 'Solomon Islands: Land Policy and Independence', Kabar Seberang: Sulating Maphilindo, no. 8/9, James Cook University, Townsville, July, pp. 62-77. Details


  • British Solomon Islands Protectorate, British Solomon Islands Protectorate Annual Reports (AR), 1896-1973. Details