Fiji: State grants lease
Sikeli Qounadovu | The Fiji Times
THE five-year extension of the Namosi Joint Venture Company’s special prospecting licence by the Government has drawn opposition from some landowners.
Two months ago, Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama ensured Fiji and the Namosi landowners that the environment would always come first.
While there has been a strong opposition from the Tikina Namosi Landowners Committee (TLNC), Minister of Lands Mereseini Vuniwaqa confirmed “due diligence was carried out by Government prior to the renewal of the SPL”.
“This included environmental and social verifications,” she said.
“After these verifications Government was satisfied that the SPL could be renewed, hence the renewal.
“Extensive consultations were carried out by the ministry with the landowners in its quest to hear directly from landowners. These consultations were over and above our legal obligations for renewal but it was done because we wanted to know the stance of relevant landowners. We were also happy with the outcome of these consultations.”
However, the issue has caused divisions in villages with at least the mataqali Nabukebuke, whose land is being occupied by NJV, split on the extension of the licence.
NJV, who are prospecting for gold and copper in the Namosi area, had its operations suspended by Government, who were adamant the environment needed to be protected first.
The Tikina Namosi Landowners Committee (TNLC) is seeking the Primer Minister’s intervention to terminate the work being carried out by the Namosi Joint Venture (NJV).
TNLC secretary Ana Vulakoto claims 92 per cent of landowners have agreed for the termination of the special prospecting licence (SPL 1420) which was given by the Government to NJV in exploring minerals in the Namosi area.
Ms Vulakoto said since NJV started with its SPL 1420 operations, they had not received any environment impact assessment despite numerous requests.
“Our people have been living with the impact of prospective mining companies in our land for over 40 years. Our daily experience has taught us that the land of our forefathers is what that gives us life, not mining. The forest, the soil, the waterways, the air we breathe, provide for our people every day,” she said.
“All we are asking Government for is not to stress our environment. We have reached a stage we have become tired, disillusioned and frustrated with its plans to destroy our land.”
NJV land manager Netava Bakaniceva said the company was not aware of protests or grievances from the landowners and that there was no destruction to the environment as claimed by the landowners.
Meanwhile, according to the TNLC members a villager who was against the exploration of the land was yesterday arrested by police for setting up a roadblock.
Fiji Police Force spokesperson Inspector Atunaisa Sokomuri confirmed that a man from Namosi was arrested by Navua police yesterday.