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Friday, April 8th 2005 - 21:00 UTC
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Best practice' approach to drilling, minerals company assures Falklands; Disappointing illex season to close two months early; Mass at St Mary's on Pope's funeral day; Racecourse housing deferred.

?Best practice' approach to drilling, minerals company assures Falklands

"BEST global practice" is being implemented by the minerals exploration company carrying out drilling in Lafonia, its Chief Executive has assured. Visiting the Islands this week, Richard Linnell of Falkland Gold and Minerals Ltd (FGML) says the company's investors want the exploration process carried out "without threatening the ecology." Five of a planned twenty-three exploratory wells have been drilled in Lafonia Mr Linnell said, "We know that there's gold somewhere in those rocks because we found it in the rivers; the geophysics that has been done tell us roughly where it is and we're doing more geophysics now to refine where our drilling targets should be." Explaining the process which leads to mining, Mr Linnell said, if a resource is defined, once the extent is known, "...we will then work out who will be the best people to develop it. "If it's a big resource, we might go direct to (large companies such as) Barrick Gold Corporation, Newmont Mining or Anglo American; if it's smaller, we'd find a suitable Canadian junior that knows how to operate that size of deposit. It is important that you have people who know what they're doing." The time scale involved from drilling to full scale mining is longer than many assume, Mr Linnell said. "We raised £10 million; that means, at the current rate of activities, we'll probably burn that in three to three and a half years." He said mining companies say it takes around twelve years for the process from initial identification of ground to opening a mine; here, "the earliest before any decision is even requested on a mine" he said, would be four years - "and that's a fast tracked-mine." Investors in FGML are keen to limit the impact of mining activities in the Islands, according to Mr Linnell; he says "horrible disasters" have occurred in the past around the world but, " just can't allow that any more." "Investors are not prepared to tolerate that sort of behaviour. For the last five years the mind set of all of the mining houses has changed to co-operating and going about this as good corporate citizens. "Once you've dug a hole in the ground you can't just take it away so investors are very wary at putting a hole in the ground until they're very sure that it's a good idea." He said the assent of the community is required for mining to go ahead: "You are always going to get those who oppose development for various reasons and those that are pushing forward development and so there is naturally a point of convergence and they will have to wrestle with how to manage it. "But you won't get any investment by someone like BHP (resource company) if there was any risk of clashing with the community." Continued on page 3.

Disappointing illex season to close two months early

COMPANIES fishing for illex in Falklands zones have been warned that the fishery is likely to close early, on April 13 or sooner. In a normal year the season would run to June 15. Director of Fisheries, Mr John Barton, said the results from the joint research cruise this year were, "...fairly clear in indicating a low biomass, and whilst there have been some conflicting signals from the commercial fishery data, it does appear to be a poor year. Hence, additional conservation action is necessary." Mr Barton said the distribution of illex this year shows that it is only marginally in Falklands zones and hence a closure in this area alone would achieve relatively little. "In order for an early closure to be effective it would need to extend to adjacent zones and we have been waiting to clarify that point." He said he believed Argentina is actively considering the early closure of the illex fishery in the southern part of their zone, but confirmation has not yet been received. When asked whether foreign jiggers might protest at the early closure of the season Mr Barton was unsure, however he said he could understand their viewpoint that whilst there are squid being caught, even in small amounts, they would prefer to continue to fish. "They have laid out the mobilisation costs to get to the South Atlantic and unless they can generate some turnover, a number of them will experience serious financial difficulties. "This is exacerbated by this being the second poor year in a row. An early closure will have significant financial consequences for the Falkland Islands as well. "However, we still need to look to the longer term. Conservation measures taken now will improve the probability of an illex fishery in the future, whereas no action could make any recovery much more difficult." Mr Barton said the problem still exists on the high seas where some fishing activity will continue. "Once the illex fishery closes in Falklands zones, Falkland vessels will be prohibited from catching illex on the high seas" and, where possible, other fleets will also be encouraged to cease fishing illex on the high seas. "Any increased fishing activity on the high seas would clearly be unattractive and damaging in conservation terms." Reports on the internet, indicate that permits for Argentine vessels to fish for illex on the high seas have been extended to April 30; if so, Mr Barton said, "...this would undermine conservation measures which could be applied in respective conservation zones."

Mass at St Mary's on Pope's funeral day

THE funeral of Pope John Paul II takes place today. The congregation of St Mary's Catholic Church is holding a special mass for the Pope, beginning at 7.00am. This service will be broadcast by the Falkland Islands Broadcasting Station on 530MW and 88.3FM. The Requiem Mass of Pope John Paul II will be broadcast on BFBS television at 9.40am. As a mark of respect to the late Pope, government buildings will fly the Falklands flag at half mast today.

Racecourse housing deferred

AN APPLICATION for outline planning permission for the construction of eleven houses to the south of Racecourse Road in Stanley has been deferred Letters of objection to the development were received from seven members of the public. The Planning and Building Committee yesterday agreed to defer the application and asked that a plan be produced for the development of the whole area, a process which will include public consultation. Chair of the committee, Councillor Richard Cockwell said, "Members were concerned about the effect not only on the existing occupiers of the area but also on the operation of the racecourse itself."

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