“In five minutes, I can get the same pay as the Prime Minister,” Chris Isafi told SIBC news.
“Its hard work, sometimes we get lucky and we get big money.”
Digging for Gold is quite rare in the Solomon Islands, but for the people of Gold Ridge in Central Guadalcanal, this is their bread basket.
Chris Isafi is one of over 3000 locals who are now making a life out of the main mining pit at the Valehaichichi area abandoned by the previous Australian owned ‘St Barbra’ mining company in 2014.
Isafi is originally from Kwaio, in Malaita province, but is married to a girl from Gold Ridge a couple of years back.
He said panning for Gold is daily routine for the locals in the area.
“People can earn over thousand dollars a day, but its hard work,” he said.
“We dig day and night, we don’t do gardening anymore, this is how we make a living.”
Isafi said since Gold was discovered in the area, people have become experts in digging and identifying rocks that contain gold.
He said in the past they would just pan soil to extract Gold, but nowadays they break down rocks into ashes.
“Actually when we dig, we look for rock lines that contain Gold, once we identify the line, we follow it until we find the Gold,” he said.
“The line looks different from a normal rock, it looks more like glass, and is much more shiny, once we cut it out, we bring it back and pound it into ashes and then we pan it then we burn the impurities with chemicals until we get the pure Gold.”
Isafi said in the area, people dig for Gold every day of the week, due to money value the precious metal had on people.
He said the current price was $250 per gram in Honiara, and $200 by local buyers in the Gold Ridge area.
“Most people don’t go to sell in Honiara, because of the extra costs of travelling there, they prefer local buyers here,” he said.
“People risk their lives everyday, just to find this metal, sometimes its rewarding and sometimes not.”
Isafi said even-though many people have died in the past while digging for gold in the man- made tunnels, people still continue because the metal brings big money fast.
He said he once saw one of his fellow diggers, buried alive when the soil above them collapsed while they were digging a tunnel.
The Landowners last week held a ‘Çhupu’ ceremony with the new company, Wanguo International Mining Group, to relocate the miners within the next 14 days.
More than 3000 people who are currently residing inside the main pit will be relocated to a new location, and Gold Production is expected to start next year.
By: Lowen Sei.