He was also thoroughly briefed on the extensive community engagement SMMS has with many communities in Isabel Province after kicking off its first exploration in Isabel.
“I must say that I am quite impressed with SMMS mining integration plans for Solomon Islands,” Mr Maneka said.
“As a person who comes from a mining area, I must admit SMMS had gone beyond its legal obligations under our laws to work with local communities during exploration stage,” the minister added.
“I note also that although SMMS is not undertaking any mining operations at present it still maintains a fully fledged operational camp, without laying off employees.
“SMMS also decided to increase its level of community assistance and engagement during this period.
“No other mining companies in Solomon Islands, in my memory, have ever done what you are doing today,” Mr Maneka told SMMS during a lunch hosted by SMMS local employees.
Mr Maneka was also impressed with the seriousness on the part of SMMS to undertake mining rehabilitation after mining.
The minister was also given an opportunity to tour and see SMMS forestry nursery at Leleghia 6 in Isabel.
Since 2012 SMMS has been studying and identifying local species-plants, trees and vegetation species- for post mining rehabilitation.
The nursery at Leleghia 6 included studies on soil erosion and how best to address soil erosion during and after mining operations.
SMMS plans to use the nursery and soil erosion management techniques to reforest and rehabilitate its mining areas should it be given mining leases on Isabel and Choiseul Provinces.
“Our intention is to do progressive rehabilitation work.
“This means we undertake rehabilitation in zones (areas) we have just mined while we mine the next zone or area.
“We do not have to wait for the actual end of our mining operation before we do rehabilitation work,” explained Nick Biliki, SMMS acting camp manager at Cockatoo Camp, during an hour long presentation by SMMS for the Minister and his delegation.
“I am not aware of any prospecting or mining company in Solomon Islands spending its resources on such important mining rehabilitation strategies.
“Sumitomo and its local subsidiary, SMMS, appear to be the first to address potential environmental issues even before actual mining starts.
“Indeed its EIS was comprehensive and attempts to address many social, cultural and environmental issues during mining operations.
“I commend and encourage Sumitomo and SMMS to continue to this because, as you know, an important legal condition of any mining will be to rehabilitate mining areas after mining.
“Your forward mining plans put you ahead of other players in this sector,” Mr Maneka told SMMS employees on Cockatoo Camp.
The minister was accompanied by his Permanent Secretary, Jeffery Kauha, the Deputy Director of Mines Joseph Ishmael, and Andrew Donua Muaki, the in-house legal adviser for SMMS.