Download the draft National Minerals Policy: nmp-draft-v2-2-for-public-distribution [1.3mb pdf]
While Solomon Islands has, at the time of writing, no active mines, it is nonetheless currently experiencing unprecedented levels of mineral exploration. This exploration is taking place in many parts of the country both onshore and offshore, and these exploration efforts may result in the discovery of commercially valuable minerals. While there is no doubt an abundance of minerals, our limited land mass and the scattered islands mean that the impacts of mining are heavily felt. There is little room for error and we have few opportunities to get the sector right. For this reason, it is more vital than ever that the country attracts reputable investors who are able to work alongside the Government, building responsible practices and ensuring that there is a good balance between commercial gain, local benefits, and environmental and social risk.
The recent closure of Gold Ridge mine (and its continued declaration as a disaster zone), the lengthy court case involving the Isabel nickel deposit, and the explosion of bauxite mining – most significantly felt in Rennell Island – have left a mark on the mining sector in Solomon Islands. It has highlighted the urgent need for the sector to have a vision, and for changes to be made to mining legislation left largely untouched since 1990. Above all, mining must avoid the malign outcomes experienced in both the logging industry and elsewhere in the Pacific.
Mining by its basic nature is not sustainable over the long run. Minerals are a non-renewable resource, and we must plan wisely for minerals-led sustained development even after our minerals have been depleted. Implementing a holistic minerals policy that takes into account both the short and long-term aspirations of our nation and its people in fundamental to making the most of these resources. To do this, the development of the sector must look beyond the mere payment of landowner compensation and collection of taxes to ensure that future generations will continue to enjoy a healthy environment and bettered circumstances. Traditional values need to be respected in the pursuit of a better life for our people, and it is important that as we move forward, the respective rights and roles of government, impacted communities, mining companies and others be carefully defined and integrated.
Our present system of mineral sector regulation is far from perfect. Experience has demonstrated that we are faced with numerous challenges that must be addressed. First and foremost is the need to situate mining within a Solomon Islands specific climate. This is necessary to understand and negotiate the social and cultural issues that underpin the viability of many mining activities. In addition, and critical to our ability to secure sustainable benefits from the mining sector, is the need to manage volatility in revenue due to shifting commodity prices and sector productivity. This is contingent on our ability to regulate and tax the sector in a manner beneficial to all and by embracing efforts to improve approaches to mineral sector regulation and economic diversification. This National Mineral Policy (NMP) provides a vision and objectives for the mineral sector and additionally outlines the steps that can be taken to achieve this vision.
This document is a long time arriving. This policy builds on work that is the result of an intensive year long collaborative process. The MMERE has headed this effort and has sought the insight of: national, provincial and traditional leaders; landowners and communities, non-governmental organisations; industry stakeholders; technical experts; multilateral institutions; and other parties. We will continue to learn from our mistakes and successes, and it is intended that this NMP, including its objectives and approaches, will evolve over time. This NMP sets out an ambitious agenda. Our work is cut out for us, but by working hard together, I believe that our emerging mineral industry can flourish in a way that is mutually beneficial to both investors and the people of our country.