Tag Archives: bauxite mining

$50.6m in six years for Fiji from bauxite

Luke Rawalai | The Fiji Times | June 07, 2017

FIJI has earned a total revenue of $50.6 million since bauxite mining began in Nawailevu, Bua six years ago.

Responding to questions from this newspaper, Mineral Resources Department acting director Dr Raijeli Taga said the revenue was derived from 23 shipments of the mineral.

Dr Taga said the shipments consisted of soil containing bauxite which was further processed and separated in processing plants in China.

“The total mass exported was 1,191,530 dry metric tonnes,” she said.

“In total the exact amount of revenue derived from the bauxite stands at $50,653,983.

“The value of each shipment was in excess of $1.5 million.”

Dr Taga said only one shipment of bauxite left Fiji’s shores in 2016 bound for China.

“The average annual shipments varied from one to four respective years,” she said.

Responding to questions on how much of the revenue had been paid to resource owners, Ms Taga said the mining company would be in a better position to answer this question since they would provide details of employment and other social corporate responsibilities.

“However, please be advised that the royalty derived from these exports had been deposited to the Government,” she said. “Some of the returns of this investment so far include employment, compensation, social assistance and community project assistance.”

Earlier, Dr Taga revealed to this newspaper that $2.8 million in revenue was derived from the first shipment of bauxite this year.

However, when contacted for a comment yesterday, XINFA Aurum Exploration Fiji Ltd manager Sireli Dagaga said the Mineral Resources Department would be in a better position to comment.

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$2.8m for Fiji from bauxite

Luke Rawalai | The Fiji Times | June 01, 2017

FIJI earned $2.8 million in revenue from the first shipment of bauxite this year, bringing total earnings to about $52.2m since mining started at Nawailevu in Bua in 2010.

Director Mineral Development Dr Raijeli Taga said the first shipment this year left Fiji’s shores on March 3.

XINFA Aurum Exploration Fiji Ltd’s first shipment this year occurred significantly earlier compared with the single shipment of 2016, which did not take place until early September.

Dr Taga said the bauxite shipped to China weighed 58,709.60 tonnes.

“This raked in revenues of $1,350,320.80 in US dollars,” she said.

In 2015, this newspaper reported that the company had so far exported 1.2 million tonnes of bauxite worth $48m from the shores of Bua in the Northern Division.

In July last year, the company said they were expecting to export 70,000 tonnes of bauxite valued at $4m by mid August, however, in September it was announced that a shipment of 69,000 tonnes valued at $1.4m had been exported.

Company director Derek Qiu had said then that they could not export more bauxite because of a drop in global market price.

He said the quality of bauxite was another contributing factor to the slow export process.

Earlier Dr Taga said the generally challenging bauxite market, coupled with issues surrounding the ore’s quality, affected bauxite export.

Despite this situation, Dr Taga said XINFA Aurum Exploration Fiji Ltd would continue with its mining operation to stockpile for later export when the commodity price improved.

When contacted for comment on Monday, XINFA Aurum Exploration Fiji Ltd said all comments on bauxite issues would be made by the Department of Mineral Resources.

Dr Taga had said the number of bauxite exports could not be estimated for 2017 because of the volatile nature of the mining business.

She said bauxite from Fiji was not of premium grade and had to compete with bauxite from countries such as Australia, Mongolia and Indonesia which were of superior grade.

Dr Taga said further exports would be purely a business decision of the tenement holder which would depend on the market price in terms of profitability and sustainability of their operations.

She said if the export price was not feasible then the tenement holder would continue with the mining activity and export when the price was right.

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Frustrations over mining coming to a head in Temotu

Johnny Blades | Radio New Zealand | 27 May 2017

“There is good mining, and there is bad mining, and I’ve witnessed a lot of bad mining,” said the Australian man to the villagers of Noipe in Solomon Islands’ Temotu province. Given the anger among the local community about bauxite mining, the conversation was remarkably cordial.

He stood at a roadblock near their village, speaking to a handful of local adults, a teacher and a couple of dozens kids from Noipe’s primary school.

“We work really hard with the community,” said the man, “we have agreements with communities for good mining. We do everything we can to protect the land, the villages, the people.

“We provide education for the children, we provide training for the adults. Can I show you some photos?” he said, turning to get something from his nearby vehicle.

“Excuse me,” responded the teacher. “We don’t need photos…. we don’t need mining and we don’t need prospecting, that’s all. Our land is our heritage, our future for young generations.”

“Okay, alright, thank you very much” said the Australian politely, before leaving.

The villagers posted a video of the exchange, saying they do not agree with mining prospecting proceeding on their land.

Bauxite interests on Nende

The Australian man in the video is Mark Gwynne, the executive chairman of Pacific Bauxite.

This Australian company owns 50 percent of AU Capital Mining, the entity which in 2015 won a license to prospect for bauxite at Nende in Temotu.

Temotu is the most remote of Solomon Islands’ provinces. Ships only general visit once a fortnight, and the twice weekly scheduled flights from Honiara are often cancelled as there’s little money to have the grass on Temotu’s airstrip cut.

Yet there was a hotly anticipated visit to Temotu this month by Mr Gwynne and company.

Pacific Bauxite, formerly named Iron Mountain Mining, is coming in for increased criticism in Temotu over the way in which it gained a business licence to conduct its prospecting at Nende.

The license was granted soon after the Temotu provincial assembly voted in a new premier, David Maina, to replace Nelson Omar in late March.

Shortly in advance of this, there was a flurry of activity on the Australian stock exchange as people bought up shares in Pacific Bauxite.

Mr Omar said the basis for moves to oust him was to approve the business license.

“(But) the consent from the resource owners, the land owners, how it was conducted was not done in accordance with existing legislations which govern the mining and logging acts,” he explained.

NASA picture of Nende, known also as Santa Cruz, in Solomon Islands’ Temotu province. Photo: NASA

On its website, Pacific Bauxite insists it has consulted with locals.

“The Company is extensively engaged with the local community and is ensuring that all stakeholders are made fully aware of current and future activities regarding the Project.”

But its assertion that “meetings held with local parties to date have been extremely positive and much enthusiasm has been generated by the recent phase of exploration” contradicts comments from the local communities themselves.

In reality, there’s a groundswell of concern about the mining among the community on Temotu’s main island of Nende (Santa Cruz).

The concern stems partly from the feeling that local people weren’t adequately consulted in advance about the prospecting by either the company or government.

It’s also about fear of the potential environmental impacts of mining.

Grace Kava, who is from the west side of Temotu’s capital Lata, said most locals did not approve of bauxite mining due to fear it would devastate the soil.

“Because they already knew something like the bauxite mining up in Rennell (Rennell and Bellona) province up the road, getting into a big disaster. They think the same thing will happen to them.”

Ben Menivi, who is from Graciosa Bay, said mining posed a big threat to the water source from which the community gets much of its drinking water.

“So that’s my concern, that if the bauxite continues, they come and continue the work, they might destroy some of the top soils at the top of the mountain where the water source comes from.”

Ngadeli village in Temotu Province, Solomon Islands, is threatened by sea level rise. Photo: Britt Basel

Another local, Henry Kapu, explained that because Temotu was prone to natural disasters and sea level rise, people from smaller islands in the group flocked to Nende, the province’s main island, when they needed support, for food or other materials.

This support system, he explained, would be at stake once bauxite mining had disrupted then island.

“We will lose all our arable land, crops, ancestral land boundaries and this will further exacerbate land disputes,” he said, warning that this could lead to more ethnic tensions in Solomon Islands.

Beu comments controversial

But the Temotu provincial executive is firmly supportive of the project.

A provincial minister, and former Temotu Premier, Father Brown Beu said they had considered the environmental impacts, and had consulted with landowners who were largely in favour.

“The people who are against this prospecting are all working class, and they’re all in town (Honiara),” said Mr Beu.

“They should be assisting in some form, but they are not. Let me tell you that these people as far as we in Temotu are concerned, we’re not listening to them, full stop.”

He claimed that as a remote and under-developed province, Temotu needed the kind of investment the bauxite project will bring.

“Unlike other investors who are invested in Temotu Province, they (the mining company) will shortly after this be able to provide medical facilities that we will never – I don’t know, centuries to come – never have.

“Isn’t that something that’s worth looking forward to?” he said.

Vanikoro Photo: Supplied

Beu’s characterisation of those against mining as outsiders sparked an outpouring of frustration on Facebook.

“BB is our past parliamentarian. He says we are backwards in terms of development. Has he done any thing better for our province since his leadership to date?” commented one Temotu man, Desmond Nimepo.

When several personnel from the mining company turned up to Temotu in the past week, roadblocks were mounted by landowners to stop them moving around.

Mr Beu, who confirmed the miners were under police protection while in Lata, has been criticised by a former governor general of Solomon Islands.

Sir John Ini Lapli, speaking on behalf of Nende people, said Mr Beu’s comments were way off the mark, and that the provincial executive had not taken the impacts of mining into account.

According to Sir John, the issue had created tension in Temotu.

He indicated that the upper levels of government and the ministry of mines were essentially likely to proceed with the mining, no matter how people felt.

“You know they said in this law that certain feet below the ground it is not people’s land it is government’s so that is where the government is sort of proceeding with this.

“They came with some agent unknown, they didn’t come through the procedure and so they were able to pay some people to sign accepting this proposal they signed up and that is how they locked these landowners,” said Sir John.

Logging machinery being burnt by landowners in Vanikoro, 2016. Photo: Facebook

The provincial government’s involvement in this process echoes the murky experience around logging operations on Temotu’s Vanikoro Island.

These operations, which have proved deeply divisive among the local community, are run by a Malaysian company, Galego Logging, whose local partner is Vanikoro Lumber Limited.

VLL’s chief executive is Temotu’s deputy premier, Ezekiel Tamoa.

According to a Vanikoro native, Edward Pae, Mr Tamoa promised that the developer would come and build infrastructure like roads, clinics, wharves, even an airstrip.

“But up to now, they only cleared the land… There’s totally no infrastructure developments on the land at the moment,” said Mr Pae.

“After five years, there’s a lot of environmental damages done: rivers crossed, tabu sites illegally entered, and most of the water sources that villages or communities around Vanikoro used to use have been badly damaged. And now the people on the ground in Vanikoro are really affected.”

Mr Tamoa disagreed, saying an airstrip and roads were being developed.

He also denied there was any conflict of interest in him being the head of a company which got a license to log from the government he is part of.

“Overall I think most of the landowners are ok with these developments. They stand to benefit from it.”

Logging erosion, Vanikoro. Photo: Planet.com

Mr Tamoa disputed claims that in Vainkoro there had been no benefits from the logging, saying an airstrip and roads are being developed.

He insisted only a few locals had reservations about logging, but opposition to the project has already boiled over into unrest last year in the form of sabtoage of logging machinery, and has the potential to do so again.

Public momentum

Numerous moves are underway to press the provincial government to halt bauxite mining activities, including a public petition.

Furthermore, a paralegal officer and concerned landowner Ruddy Oti has been collecting affidavits signed by Nende landowners who feel they were misled by the mining company when it sought to get landowner consent.

Mr Oti said that earlier some individual landowners had been approached by the company and gave their consent.

“After OceansWatch (environmental NGO) did some awareness in Nende, there was some sense of realisation among these landowners who had previously given their consent, then they eventually agreed to have their consent revoked.”

A Nende local, Titus Godfrey, said developers coming to Temotu tended not to follow the full process for gaining consent, knowing some local people were interested in quick gains.

“I mean, people gave their signature because the guy who came, he came in December, when he came in at Lata they said if you want to survey our places to do the drilling you can pay two hundred dollars or something like that.”

OceansWatch ranger Titus Godfrey (left) and Nelson Nyieda, the NGO’s Solomon Islands Lata Office manager. Photo: Oceans Watch

It’s a theme echoed by Father Colton Medobu, an Anglican priest in Noole village.

“The situation like here is people wait for opportunities of money: money, money, money… And when people talk about these things, people resort to advances of big money. That’s why these people get caught up and use this as the basis for working with the people. And sometimes it extends to bribing people without explaining to people what they’re asked to do.”

He said that local people wanted development and were not strictly against resource extractive operators.

But he said there had to be proper consultation and a proper strategy to avoid potential displacement and negative health and environmental consequences from these developments.

While the provincial government appears unlikely to answer the petition’s call to revoke the mining company’s business license, it is under increasing pressure to respond to the community’s concerns.

Yet Brown Beu said that until the prospecting finished, it was premature to stop the project.

“Then, we’ll be able to ascertain as to whether there is enough minerals in the soil for mining later on,” he explained.

“And that of course depends on the people. Once the reports have come out and the people basically ‘no we don’t want mining’ then that’s it, it’s finished.”

This may not be the case – once a Surface Access Agreement is signed, there is most likely little way to stop the mining other than through the courts at the Development Consent stage.

However out of the current venting on Temotu has come an elevated level of public discourse about mining and logging.

Raising awareness about these areas was the aim of NGO Oceans Watch.

The co-director of Oceans Watch Solomon Islands, Chris Bone, said there had been a lack of awareness about not only the impacts of logging and mining, but also about what the better options were.

Of those options, eco-tourism is an area that Temotu has huge potential in.

“The place is absolutely gorgeous. It’s a very, very special and very treasured place, and one of the last places in the Pacific that has this wonderful primary rainforest,” he said.

Temotu locals want to protect their land against devastation from mining activities. Photo: Facebook

For now, Temotu’s leadership and the national government are being urged to be decisive about community concerns over the mining issue.

Sir John Ini Lapli and others have warned that frustrations among landowners and tribal groups could escalate to violence if nothing is done.

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Taga: Volatile nature of mining impacts bauxite

The number of bauxite export cannot be estimated for 2017 because of volatile nature of the mining business, says director Mineral Development Dr Raijeli Taga. Picture: Luke Rawalai

Serafina Silaitoga | The Fiji Times | May 17, 2017

Director Mineral Development Dr Raijeli Taga said this resulted in one shipment being sent so far this year to China.

This, she said, was sent in March.

Despite this situation, Dr Taga said XINFA Aurum Exploration Fiji Ltd would continue with its mining operation to stockpile for later export when the commodity price improved.

“The number of bauxite export cannot be estimated for 2017 due to volatile nature of the mining business,” she said.

“Further exports will be purely a business decision of the tenement holder which will depend on the market price in terms of profitability and sustainability of their operations.

“If the export price is not feasible then the tenement holder would continue with the mining activity and export when the price is right.”

For last year, Dr Taga said the export declined because of low commodity price in China who was the primary buyers of Fijian bauxite.

“Since the bauxite from Fiji is not of premium grade, it has to compete with bauxite from countries such as Australia, Mongolia and Indonesia which are of superior grade,” she said.

“According to the quarter one update of 2017 from the Bauxite Index, the Chinese domestic alumina prices have fallen from recent highs in January, as supply was ramped up to take advantage of the higher prices.

“Subsequently, it assumed that the bauxite export would be very similar to 2016 unless the price improves.”

However, announcements, she said indicated that bauxite import would remain weak as China had suspended spot import for three months because of ample cheaper DOM (Days on Market) supply.

She said Beijing also announced plans for winter cuts

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Fiji villagers claim mine spill destroying fishing grounds

Shalend Prasad points at a water outlet from the bauxite mine alleged by members of the public to be waste water from sediment ponds within the mine. Picture: LUKE RAWALAI

Luke Rawalai | Fiji Times | March 20, 2017

PEOPLE in Nasarawaqa, Bua and those living along the Dreketi River claim the decline in marine resources around the area is due to spillage of waste water from the bauxite mining in Naibulu, Dreketi.

Sasake villager Apisalome Tumuri claimed that the spill off from the mine during heavy rain forced marine life out from the area to the deep sea.

The 52-year-old fisherman claims there had been a lot of changes in their fishing ground since mining began in nearby Naibulu, Dreketi.

Mr Tumuri said fish, crabs and bech-de-mer had begun disappearing from their fishing grounds during the past three years. He said in the past, villagers could pick shellfish and fetch mud crabs from nearby mangroves.

He said they now had to go out into the open sea to get these.

Dreketi resident Losana Lomani said the Dreketi River had turned red last week after heavy rain was experienced in the area.

Ms Lomani said they learnt that the muddy water originated from the mining site and that women in the area found it hard to find freshwater mussels in the river.

XINFA Aurum Exploration Fiji Ltd’s senior officer Sang Lei said the muddy water witnessed by villagers was normal rain run-off from land.

Mr Lei said all waste water from the mine was contained in the sediment pond at the mine and that none had seeped into the waterways as claimed.

Responding to queries, permanent secretary for Lands and Mineral Resources Ministry Malakai Finau said it was normal for the sea to turn muddy during heavy rain.

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Fiji villagers complain of ‘red’ sea

The sediment pond at the XINFA Bauxite mine in Naibulu, Dreketi which is said to have spilled waste water. Picture: LUKE RAWALAI

Luke Rawalai | Fiji Times | March 17, 2017

XINFA Aurum Exploration Fiji Ltd has strongly denied claims that sediment ponds at their mining site were overflowing, spilling into waterways and ending up in the sea.

The sediment ponds hold wastewater from the mining process.

The company made the statement after people raised concerns regarding the change in water colour during adverse weather experienced last week in Nasarawaqa, Naibulu, Nakalou and surrounding areas.

The company’s senior officer San Lei said it was just normal water runoff from land.

Mr Lei said all wastewater from the mine was contained in the sediment pond at the mine and none had seeped into the waterways as claimed. However, villagers of Sasake in Bua claimed heavy rain in the mine area caused spill-off from the sediment ponds that ended up in the sea.

Viliame Bailato, who claims to have fished in the area for 20 years, said seawater around the village turned red during the heavy rain, claiming it was soil carried by rain water from the mining site and the sediment pond.

Mr Bailato said the normal run-off from land during heavy rain was different from what they experienced last week.

He said last week they had to travel to open sea to catch fish because there were no fish within the lagoon.

The 53-year-old said the incident had been happening for a while now, claiming the spillage had even driven mud crabs and other marine organisms from their shores.

Nasarawaqa fisherman Oliva Uga alleged fish numbers in the area had dwindled because of the spillage.

Mr Uga said the waters in the area used to be known for the schools of mackerel or salala.

He said for three years now they had no sign of the fish in their fishing grounds.

Other fishermen in both areas claim waters within the Nasarawaqa, Dreketi and Nakalou areas had been affected by the spillage last week.

Responding to questions from this newspaper, permanent secretary for the Lands and Mineral Resources Ministry, Malakai Finau, said muddy water experienced last week was the result of normal run-off from land. Mr Finau said it was normal for the sea to turn muddy during heavy rain, adding this even happened at the Rewa River.

He said officials from the ministry had been at the mine to verify claims from people, adding they would send them to the mine site again to verify the current claims.

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Solomon Islands PM defends leaked texts

sogavare

Manasseh Sogavare Photo: RNZI

Radio New Zealand | 17 January, 2017

Solomon Islands prime minister Manasseh Sogavare has defended a leaked sms conversation he had with an official of a bauxite mining company about tax exemptions.

The leaked texts which were published in the Sunday Star reportedly were sent on the 15th and 16th of November.

In the published parts of the sms conversation Mr Sogavare reassured an official of Bintan Mining SI Ltd that cabinet was preparing to remove all export duty on bauxite.

Bintan is the mining firm contracted by Asia Pacific Investment Development (APID) to mine bauxite on Rennell Island in the Rennel and Bellona Province.

The prime minister yesterday told the newspaper, The Island Sun, the conversation was completely above board and had been taken out of context.

He said the public was mistaken if it thought a prime minister should not be speaking with investors about matters of government policy.

Mr Sogavare said it related to an earlier government decision to impose a 20 percent tax penalty on illegally mined bauxite stocks which he says has been implemented.

Mr Sogavare said he was simply informing the investor of a cabinet decision that the 20 percent tax was not be applied to legally mined bauxite stocks and that this would be backdated to cover legally mined bauxite that had been exported before the cabinet decision.

The prime minister also said he was offended at insinuations that he had been bribed to remove the 20 percent tax penalty and pointed out that there has never any export duty on bauxite to begin with.

The sms leak and the later posting of a word for word conversation between the prime minister and Island Sun reporters about the issue could result in an official investigation into a possible security breach within the Prime Minister’s office and telecommunications.

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