CAPITOL HILL Saipan — There are 10 investors engaged in various industries including financing mining casino entertainment fisheries air transportation and education ready to do business in the Northern Mariana Islands.

Among the investors is Neptune Minerals an Australia-based company engaged in the exploration of “seafloor massive sulphides ” or SMS which are high-grade mineral deposits rich in base metals like copper zinc and lead with a high gold and silver content.

Glenn H. Manglona acting director of Department of Commerce Division of Economic Development told the Journal that Neptune Minerals representatives led by Dr. Simon McDonald founder and chief executive officer of Neptune Minerals met with Gov. Benigno R. Fitial on Jan. 25 to discuss the possibility of exploring NMI waters for SMS. Manglona said “They were interested in paying for each square kilometer of the exploration site and royalty.” He said the NMI’s position is to gain equity ownership. Manglona said he has been working on the project since last June. He said the government is “seriously looking into” Neptune Minerals’ proposal. SMS deposits according to Neptune Minerals are a new mining asset class that has not been commercially developed.

Neptune Minerals was founded in 1999 and is geared toward commercializing SMS deposits. In 2002 the company was granted a permit over known prospective SMS areas within New Zealand-controlled waters and has since identified target sites.

Manglona said Neptune Minerals have identified at least two SMS sites in the NMI the closest of which is about 15 miles south of Saipan. According to the company’s Web site McDonald has an extensive background in minerals and petroleum exploration and has worked in the Southwest Pacific Southeast Asia and Africa. He also spent most of the past 20 years exploring for minerals and oil in Papua New Guinea.

Another company the Chicago-based Bridge Investment Group LLC is scheduled to conduct a groundbreaking ceremony for its 400-room casino and resort project on Tinian in June. Phililip Mendiola-Long vice president for CNMI operations told the Journal that BIG has already acquired 50 000 sq. meters of land south of the island for the project. BIG was granted a conditional license on Dec. 19 2005 bu the Tinian Casino Gaming Control Commission. BIG is headed by Rudy Pamintuan managing director and chair of the White House’s Asian American and Pacific Islanders Commission.

The Marianas Public Lands Authority is working with another group of investors who want to construct a 27-hole golf course on the island with an $11-million initial capital outlay.

Edward DeLeon Guerrerro commissioner of the MPLA said the investors from Korea hired former NMI Superior Court Judge Edward Manibusan to represent them in the transactions with the local government. The investors were given a draft of the conditional lease by MPLA for them to review. Negotiations are ongoing.

Charles P. Reyes Jr. public information officer for the Fitial administration said “We would like to have more investors come to the CNMI and develop the economy.” Reyes said the administration “is very open and receptive to ideas and proposals that will improve the business and investment climate in the CNMI.”

Reyes said the administration will “do away with many of the bureaucratic restrictions and regulations that hamper commerce.”

According to the Department of Commerce there are over 25 different types of permits required by various government agencies from the Historic Preservation Office to Coastal Resource Management Office and the Division of Environmental Quality.

The NMI Department of Labor issues permits for nonresident workers within a six-month minimum processing period. Reyes said the administration would like to expedite process and grant investors conditional permits while giving them a reasonable period of time to meet all the requirements.

Other investors currently working out an agreement with the government are:

• Air Saipan which will open chartered flights to Saipan from Japan Taipei China and Australia with plans to expand in Korea Hong Kong and Russia. Dave Raybould vice president for Asia/Pacific told the Journal that the maiden flight is scheduled for March.

• Bridgecreek International Corp. which entered into partnership with JG Sablan Corp. which is owned by local businessman John T. Sablan to export pozzolan from Pagan Island to Asia and the Middle East.

• BayShore Business Services LLC a business outsourcing outfit whose representatives led by Jeff Russell chairman of the board were on Saipan to attend Fitial and Lt. Gov. Timothy P. Villagomez’ inauguration. Fitial has been holding talks with Russell since 2005.

• Bridge Capital is a financing firm whose representatives visited the NMI in November 2005 to discuss plans to seek tax breaks through the government’s Qualifying Certificate program and open a lending company on Saipan. The company can offer loans at a minimum of $1 million.

• We Manage Calls a call center that was granted tax incentives by the Commonwealth Development Authority in November 2005 for them to set up a $2 million operation on Saipan.

• Lady Kimberly Inc. a Seattle-based fishing company that is now registered as Northern Marianas Fisheries as recommended by CDA. Manglona said the company has been negotiating with Bank of Guam and First Hawaiian Bank for a CDA-guaranteed $600 000 loan package to be used in relocating two of the fishing company’s long-line vessels from North America to the NMI and initialize funding for a processing and marketing office on Saipan.

• Hong Kong University which according to Lt. Governor Villagomez plans to occupy La Fiesta Mall in Marpi and use it for its education extension program on Saipan. MBJ