Tag Archives: Solomon islands

Solomon Islands NGO itok PM imas rausim pastem Mines Minista

Solomon Islands coat of arms on Parliament buildings in Honiara Photo: RNZI / Koroi Hawkins

Caroline Tiriman | ABC Radio Australia | 19 July 2017

Forum Solomon Islands International i mekim despla askim bihaenim miting namel long Mines minista na Buaxite  Mining siaman

Odio: President blong Forum Solomon Islands International Benjamin Afuga itoktok wantem Caroline Tiriman

President blong Forum Solomon Islands International em i laikim Prime Minista Manasseh Sogavare long rausim pastem minista blong mines na mekim investigation long wanpla miting em minista ibin holim wantem siaman blong Asia Pacific Investment development we emi owner blong Bauxite mine long RenBel Provins.

Benjamin Afuga i mekim despla toktok bihaen long wanpla video i kamap long social media long wik igo pinis we i soim Minister David Dei Pacha ibin bungim Mr  Ray Set Fah Chu blong Asia Pacific Investment development long wanpla car park long Honiara.

Emi tok wanpla man ibin kisim despla video long mun April iet, tasol oli bin putim long social media, na ol narapla midia long last week na emi wok long kamapim planti toktok tumas long kantri.

Mr Afuga itok tu olsem planti pipal long kantri i wari tru long despla Bauxite mining kampani  long wonem gavman ibin soim olsem em bai larim kampani ino ken baem tax taem emi salim bauxite igo long ol narapla kantri.

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Solomons minister allegedly filmed in secret meeting

Photo: supplied A screenshot of video footage reportedly showing the secret meeting

LOOP PNG | 19 July, 2017

The Solomon Islands opposition says it has obtained video footage of a secret meeting between the minister of mines and energy and a controversial foreign miner in a hotel carpark.

The video in question was also published on the youtube account Delton Teorongo with the description,“Is this how the new Solomon Islands Minerals Policy is going to be administered?”

The meeting is said to have taken place late on the night of April 21 at the Heritage Hotel.

The footage shows the minister, David Day Pacha’s vehicle, an SUV with registered plate number G- 3903, arriving at the carpark around 10:40pm.

A few minutes later, a man believed to be the chairman of Asia Pacific Investment Development (APID), Ray Set Fah Chu, was seen walking down the stairs and into the minister’s vehicle.

The car park meeting lasted for around 10 minutes before the man was seen exiting the car and going back inside the hotel.

In a statement, the opposition said it strongly denounced the meeting and called on the minister to explain why he met Mr Chu.

It said the meeting was highly suspicious as two months earlier the prime minister and the mines minister were caught in a text message exchange with the same miner.

The leaked text messages showed the prime minister granting zero duty to Bintan Mining Company, a subsidiary of APID, to export bauxite from West Rennell.

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Pacific Bauxite accused of tricking Solomon Islanders over mining rights

Tomoto Neo, Nendo, Santa Cruz Islands, Solomon Islands. A bauxite mining proposal has divided the small island community. Photograph: Alamy Stock Photo

The Australian mining company denies any impropriety and says landowners are keen to find out if there are mineral resources on their land

Ben Doherty | The Guardian | 6 July 2017

An Australian mining company is embroiled in a standoff with landowners in the Solomon Islands over allegations it coerced, bullied and tricked communities into signing over prospecting rights to their land.

A government has been overthrown and local landowners have taken to blocking the roads with stones, and even reportedly confronting miners with bows and arrows, to thwart prospecting on their island of Nendo, in Temotu, the easternmost province of the Solomon Islands.

The miner Pacific Bauxite denied any allegations of impropriety and said it had worked in close consultation with landowners who overwhelmingly supported their work. So far it has engaged only in hand-augered prospecting.

“Landowners are also very keen to determine the potential for minerals resources on their land,” it said. “Prospecting provides landowners with a free evaluation of their land while not committing to mining.”

The company’s application to prospect had divided the Nendo community, a former Solomon Islands governor general has said.

Several Nendo residents have said dozens of landowners across the island had withdrawn their authorisation for Pacific Bauxite to prospect on their land.

The company said it was not aware of any landowners withdrawing their consent and that it remained committed to consulting with all owners.

Some Nendo landowners have said they were not properly told about the environmental impact of mining, and others claimed they were coerced into signing, told to sign blank pieces of paper, or had their signatures forged.

Ruddy Oti, a Temotu landowner and legal adviser to the Temotu Conservation and Sustainable Development Association, told the Guardian many people on the island felt they had been manipulated into signing surface access agreements for the company on their land.

“There was no proper consultation, people were not informed about the potential impacts on their land,” Oti said.

“People were asked to sign blank pieces of paper and those signatures were collected and used to say these landowners have agreed to have prospecting on their land. They did not agree.

“Some signatures were forged. When I went to see those people, they said they had not agreed.

“And some landowners said they felt pressured to agree, or that they weren’t told about the impact upon their land. Those people have now written sworn affidavits to revoke their consent.”

Oti said landowners were resolute in their opposition, having seen the damage of logging on other parts of the island. Some villages have reportedly put roadblocks up to stop miners’ access or threatened vehicles with bows and arrows.

A video clip posted online shows some of the community resistance to bauxite mining on Nendo.

The short clip, shot on a phone, shows a group of primary school students and adults in the village of Noipe on Nendo blocking the road and not allowing a Pacific Bauxite vehicle to pass.

Mark Gwynne, the executive director of Pacific Bauxite, tells the group – most of the children are holding signs in protest – the company is engaged in “good, ethical mining”.

“There is good mining, and there is bad mining, and I have witnessed a lot of bad mining,” he says. “We work really hard with communities. We reach 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 for working. Can I show you some photos?”

He is told by one man from the village:

“Excuse me. We don’t need photos.

“Just stop everything. We don’t need mining and we don’t need prospecting. That’s all. The land is our heritage and our future for young generations.”

The standoff ends politely and without incident.

Brett Smith, the director of Pacific Bauxite, told the Guardian that at this stage the company had only completed reconnaissance prospecting and that no landowners were compelled to allow mining.

The Solomon Islands. Mining has a damaged reputation in Nendo after logging and mining on Rennell Island, on the south-western edge of the Solomons archipelago. Photograph: Alamy Stock Photo

“The results from this are highly encouraging and warrant further work to determine the potential for mineable resources,” he said.

“We are hoping that the bauxite deposits at Nendo provide the potential for a long-term industry that will result in the generation of beneficial sustainable businesses for the people of the Temotu province.”

Smith said Pacific Bauxite had a strong commitment to the environment and the community on Nendo, in particular around health, education and future sustainable economic development.

“To date, the company has provided much needed medical equipment to the Lata hospital and donated equipment to several schools. This community support will continue while the company is working at Nendo.

“The company also has a policy of providing employment opportunities for the local community. Expatriate workers are kept to a minimum to allow maximum benefit and training to local people. In the event that mining takes place in the future, the company intends constructing a training facility to Australian standards. That will have the capacity to provide skilled employees from the local community.”

Smith said mining on Nendo would have the smallest possible footprint and minimise the environmental impact.

“Rehabilitation will focus on returning a large majority of affected land to its former condition, while small areas will be considered for future beneficial businesses which will be fully owned by the local community.”

He said the company was being discredited by a small group that had misinformed the community.

Solomon Islands’ director of mines, Thomas Toba, said officials from his department considered several objections to mining on Nendo before granting the prospecting licence. Department officials have travelled to Nendo to speak to concerned landowners.

Toba recently launched the Solomon Islands’ new national minerals policy, which established a legal framework for minerals extraction, something the country had not had previously.

“Another thing is people will realise that resource owners have a part to play in this; they have a voice in this industry compared to the past when they can only participate through signing of surface access agreements,” he said.

While some landowners say they are resolutely opposed to mining, others argue it will bring development to the most remote region of the Solomons archipelago, often overlooked by the central government in Honiara.

Father Brown Beu, a former provincial premier, said that Pacific Bauxite prospecting would bring educational and health facilities to the province.

“We trust this company,” Father Beu told a radio interview. “Unlike other investors who are invested in Temotu province, the AU Mining[50% owned by Pacific Bauxite] will shortly after this be able to provide medical facilities that we will never – I don’t know, for centuries to come – never have.”

But the penultimate premier of Temotu province, Nelson Omar, who was overthrown in March, believes he was ousted because of his resistance to business licences for miners and loggers in Nendo.

Omar’s government had refused to grant a business licence to Pacific Bauxite. In March he was defeated in a sudden vote of no confidence. Within a week, a business licence was granted by the new government to Pacific Bauxite.

Omar said he warned the Temotu assembly that his refusal to grant the licence – and another logging licence to an unrelated company – were the bases for efforts to remove him.

“In fact it did happen. Days after the closure of the assembly, the licence was granted in an urgent executive meeting, exactly as I predicted,” he said. “The consent from the resource owners, the landowners, how it was conducted, was not done in accordance with existing legislations which govern the mining and logging acts.”

A traditional ceremony in Nendo. The great majority of locals do not want the mine, says former governor general Father Sir John Ini Lapli. Photograph: Alamy Stock Photo

The former Solomon Islands governor general, Father Sir John Ini Lapli, said the possibility of mining had divided families and tribes.

“The great majority of people do not want this,” he told Radio New Zealand. “Just the few that … are working with [the miner]. And there is a real possibility for clashes between the landowners, tribal groups, even relatives themselves if the government is not clear cut about how to deal with this.”

Lapli said the people of Temotu felt their wishes had been ignored in the central government’s decision to issue a prospecting licence. He said the land belonged to the people, not the government.

“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 [in] these landowners.”

Mining has a damaged reputation in Nendo after logging and mining on Rennell Island, on the south-western edge of the Solomons archipelago.

The mining, by Bintan Mining, was initially undertaken with an illegally granted mining licence and has left the island with widespread environmental damage and little development. A video, Ripples in Rennells, by the environmental advocacy organisation OceansWatch has been played widely across Nendo.

Pacific Bauxite was formerly Iron Mountain. Pacific Bauxite bought a 50% stake in AU Capital Mining, which was the original holder of the prospecting licence from the Solomon Islands Mines and Minerals Board.

Pacific Bauxite’s website says of the Nendo project:

“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. To this end, meetings held with local parties to date have been extremely positive and much enthusiasm has been generated by the recent phase of exploration.”

It says the company’s initial auger drilling and pit sampling had confirmed “extensive large-scale bauxite deposits” on the island.

The main area earmarked for mining is approximately 12km by 2km (24 square kilometres) but that is expected to grow.

“Identified areas of mineralisation are significantly larger than historically defined,” the company said.

Bauxite is the principal ore in aluminium and is also used to make refractory materials, chemicals and cements. Australia is the world’s largest producer of bauxite.

Bauxite deposits are found in tropical and subtropical areas, in deeply weathered volcanic rock, which make up many islands in the Solomon Islands archipelago.

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Filed under Corruption, Environmental impact, Exploration, Human rights, Solomon Islands

Solomons group plans legal action over Temotu mining

Radio New Zealand | 3 July, 2017

A Solomon Islands conservation group says it’s planning legal action against the government over mining plans in the remote Temotu province.

An Australian company, Pacific Bauxite, secured a licence to prospect Santa Cruz island, and it claimed it had the consent of several landowner groups.

But the Temotu Conservation and Sustainable Development Association said those groups didn’t realise the implications of what might happen, and many were now trying to withdraw their consent.

The Association’s chair, Father Charles Melinga, said the provincial and national governments had done nothing to address their concerns.

He said the groups believed the law was not followed when the prospecting licence was granted, and they were hoping to challenge it in court.

Father Melinga said he hoped the process could begin soon.

“As far as mining is concerned at the moment, the population is in suspense as to what will happen next. So we call on the provincial government and the other related authorities to be clear on what is going to happen.”

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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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Solomons landowners discuss concerns on reopening gold mine

The over-full tailings dam facility at the Gold Ridge Gold Mine on Guadalcanal in Solomon Islands in January 2015. Photo: copyright Dr Matthew Allen – ANU

Landowners on Guadalcanal in Solomon Islands have been consulted about the proposed reopening of the Gold Ridge gold mine.

The mine was closed in 2014 after massive floods and its ownership was then transferred from the Australian owner St Barbara to a local land-owning company Guadalcanal Community Investments Ltd.

Guadalcanal Community Investments Ltd is now working with Chinese-owned Australian property developer AXF Group which plans to have the mine operational by the end of 2018.

Bringing the gold mine back to life is also a major policy objective of the government which says it wants to do it right.

Members of landowning communities discussed a range of issues with government officials and company representatives relating to royalties, security, environmental impact, revenue sharing and the relocation of people.

They were assured by both the government and the company that their concerns would be taken onboard and addressed to ensure a smooth reopening.

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Gold Ridge Mine miting long Honiara

Delegesen blong gavman, Gold Ridge CLC an GRML i miting long Honiara ( SIG photo)

Sam Seke | ABC Radio | 26 April 2017

Solomon Islands gavman, Gold Ridge Community and Landowners Council (GRCLC) and kampani blong hem, Gold Ridge Mining Limited i gohet fo expresim strongfala tingting fo maen hem stat baek moa.

Gold Ridge Mine long Central Guadalcanal wea hemi only gold mine olsem long Solomon Islands kamkasem distaem, hem bin klos daon bihaen bigfala flad long 2015 wea hem spoelem tailings dam.

Australian Mining company St Barbara wea hem onam maen long taem ia, hem salem kampani ia long lokol landona kampani Goldridge Community Investment fo 100 Australian dollar nomoa an olketa i lusim Solomon Islands.

Long yestede, gavman hem holem miting wetem olketa evri grup we i involv long maening ia fo talem aot olketa plan an aweanes long plande eria  bae olketa i karem aot long olketa komiuniti. 

Chairman blong Gold Ridge Mining Limited, Walton Naezen hem se kampani hem hapi wetem kaen aweaness fo mekem evri waka fo openem bae maen hem gohet gud.

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