Australian company defends position against the petition, to be tabled in Parliament, to stop Sigatoka River project
Fonua Talei | Fiji Sun | 12 Feb 2020
An Australian mining company has strongly defended its position against a petition to stop the issue of licence to mine sand at the Sigatoka River.
The petition is being organised by SODELPA Opposition MP Viliame Gavoka, who has tabled it for Parliament debate next week. It claims residents of riverbank communities may be:
- forced to leave their homes because the mining would negatively affect their livelihood.
- deprived of their ancestral fishing ground as a result of destruction to their environment.
But Garry Lowder, chairman of Dome Gold Mines Limited, said: “If our project proceeds at Sigatoka it will have substantial environmental benefits, including significant mitigation of the chronic flooding that occurs regularly in the Sigatoka River, and revitalisation of the river, which is currently choked with sand.
“The mine, if it proceeds, would very much enhance local employment opportunities and provide a substantial boost to economic activity across the Sigatoka area”
Mr Lowder said the company operated in Fiji on a Special Prospecting Licence 1451 issued by the Fijian Government with strict terms and conditions.
He also said they had fully complied with the terms of the licence and exercise industry best practices in all of their activities.
He said: “We are acutely aware of the need to protect the environment and engage with the local community and we routinely exceed our statutory obligations on both of those matters.”
Mr Gavoka hopes the Speaker of Parliament, Ratu Epeli Nailatikau, will nominate a committee to carry out an inquiry.
He said he had collected about 900 signatures. The proposed mining area covers 2522.69 hectares on the plains at the mouth of the river, the river itself and an area offshore.
The petition raises concerns about plans by the company to mine magnetite, a source of iron, for making steel.
Mr Gavoka claimed that in preparation for the Parliament sittings from February 17 21, he had consulted with the landowning units in the Nadroga/Navosa Province particularly the people of the Tikina ‘o Nasigatoka and the surrounding riverbank communities.
“The support has been overwhelming. If I had more time, I could have got thousands of signatures, but I needed to table it quickly in February because mining is scheduled to commence in 2021 and time is of the essence,” Mr Gavoka said.
“These villages are indicating their concern, they are my people, my relatives and also the settlements around the area like Kulukulu.
“I want the inquiry to happen right away. Once the petition is tabled in Parliament, the Speaker will then nominate a committee to carry out an inquiry,” the SODELPA MP said.