Tag Archives: Solomon islands

Miner’s withdrawal from Sols prompts call for better regulation

Dateline Pacific | Radio New Zealand | 17 August 2017 

The Solomon Islands’ Chamber of Commerce has expressed regret over the withdrawal of the Japanese mining giant Sumitomo.

The miner announced its departure from the country earlier this month, citing the slumping nickel price and the loss of a legal battle over mining rights.

Sumitomo began exploring in the Solomons in 2005, but became embroiled in a six-year dispute with Australia’s Axiom Mining.

The battle ended this year with neither company being granted the right to a nickel deposit in Isabel province.

The chief executive of the Chamber, Dennis Meone, told Koroi Hawkins it’s unfortunate that a major international investor has departed having spent most of its time and resources in the courts.

DENNIS MEONE: I think it is a pity that as a country we could not take advantage of what Sumitomo could offer. It is a huge loss for the country and I think we are missing out big time. You know imagine how many Solomon Islanders would have been employed by they company. You know the spin-offs in the economy. Service providers that benefit. And of course the resource owners benefiting from it. So I think we have missed out big time. You know Koroi to put things into perspective our economic base in the Solomon Islands is very narrow and our growth our economic growth is mainly driven by a single industry which is mainly the logging sector. So there is the need to broaden our economic base by exploring and venturing into other areas or sources of growth and the mining sector is a good example of a sector that could sustain growth and provide the needed jobs and spin-offs for the economy. So I think with Sumitomo’s withdrawal I think we are losing big time. I think if you also look at our population growth you know one of the highest in the region if not the world. But by 2015 our population growth would double to around 2.1 million. And I guess providing that employment opportunity for our growing population is important but that can only happen if we encourage foreign direct investment flowing into the country. So I guess we have missed out an opportunity to really get the huge investment such as Sumitomo to get going.

KOROI HAWKINS: Yes and it has left under a bit of a cloud hasn’t it? It has cited the price of nickel continuing to plummet but also it has been embroiled in a lengthy court battle which resolved this year but without any really conclusions in terms of either according it the mining rights or the prospecting rights for the  nickel deposit on Isabel or its competitor Axiom.

DM: You know I think for foreign companies that are coming here and to spend so much time in court case and all this it is a waste of resources and I think this is something that we as a country and stakeholders the government the business sector, the private sector can actually learn from and ensure that I think within our internal processes within government we just have to make sure that we actually encourage growth and we do not you know with all our regulatory systems [they] are transparent and robust so that we do not actually go through this case again because it is actually. Everyone is losing out. They are losing out but also I think as a country we are losing out on this opportunity to actually get something happening in the economy.

KH: It is not the first company to come into strife in Solomon Islands. You have the Gold Ridge gold mine which has had issues in the same sector.

DM: Yes, yes.

KH: You have got RIPEL plantations in Yandina that is a long running industrial dispute. Is there an issue with Solomon Islands in terms of accommodating foreign investment?

DM: No I think it is basically down to us as a country and I say this generally, you know the government needs to be working closely with the private sector and I think there is the need to actually, we have always advocated for the private sector advocate for a conducive business environment and I think that is where government can really make a difference by shaping policies and frameworks that could encourage growth and investment. So I think there is the need but also the genuineness for us to actually get together it is just we haven’t. And this is something the government and us the private sector needs to sit down and talk through some of these issues because if we want to encourage growth in the economy we also have to understand that you know these companies are actually putting in resources into it and it is an investment for them. So at the end of the day we also have to make sure that all our systems or we actually, all our systems are transparent and ensure that we are doing the right thing to provide a conducive business environment you know to encourage investment in growth and innovation.

KH: Is there any reassurance you can give to foreign investors out there given, in the light of Sumitomo’s withdrawal?

DM: Yes, Solomon Islands is a good place to do business, things do come up, and with the case of Sumitomo it is something that I wont comment on because it is something that was before the courts. But there are so many opportunities in the Solomon Islands and one of the things that the Solomon Islands Chamber of Commerce is doing is talking to governments on police issues that are affecting the private sector. And we have just recently signed our memorandum of understanding with the Solomon Islands government which would provide a formal platform for us to engage on policy dialogue with governments. So I guess that in itself is a platform that we can build on and so yes there are business opportunities in the Solomons and you just need to pick which areas investment can happen in.

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More mining companies interested in Solomon Islands

Photo supplied. Caption: Mining exploration in Solomon Islands.

Charles Kadamana | Loop Pacific | August 17, 2017

More mining companies have shown their interest in nickel exploration after the Japanese firm Sumitomo Metal Mining (SMM) announced it is withdrawing from Solomon Islands.

One of them is Sunshine Minerals while two others are yet to confirm.

Sunshine Minerals has been granted a letter of intent by the Solomon Islands Ministry of Mines for its application for a prospecting licence over the Jejevo deposit in Isabel province and a prospecting licence is expected to be issued in due course.

The current mining company which still has interest is Axiom, despite not being granted the rights over the International Tender Areas after a legal battle with SMM.

Government Minister and Member of Parliament for Gao/Bugotu constituency, Samuel Maneto’ali, who has the political leadership over the area, said more mining companies are trying to come in after SMM withdrew.

He said he was not aware of SMM’s withdrawal until last week so he is not sure the reason behind the company’s decision to pull out.

“We missed the best mining company,” he said.

Maneto’ali said the country has lost one of the best mining companies because it has 400 years of mining experience and they have all the expertise and experience to carry out mining.

“They have good standing in environment assessments because they have the technology. There we missed the best mining company,” he said.

He said since they have withdrawn the only thing is to find other interested companies. He said since Solomon Islands lost one of the best mining companies the landowners must comprise.

“They must organise themselves and agree to the best company not to lose any more interested investors like Sumitomo,” he said.

Sumitomo Metal Mining (SMM) has withdrawn its nickel exploration in Solomon Islands because of slumping nickel prices and the loss of a legal dispute over mining rights.

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Sumitomo Metal Mining exits Solomon Islands nickel exploration project

solomon-islands-parliament

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

Yuka Obayashi | Reuters | 9 August 2017

Japan’s Sumitomo Metal Mining Co Ltd. said on Tuesday it will exit from a nickel exploration project in the Solomon Islands because of slumping nickel prices and the loss of a legal dispute over mining rights in the country.

Sumitomo Metal Mining, which began exploring in the Solomon Islands in 2005, has been caught up in a six-year legal battle with Australia’s Axiom Mining, which ended this year with neither company being granted the rights over a nickel deposit in Isabel province, it said.

“As a result of our comprehensive review of business circumstances, the final judgment in the legal proceedings and other factors, we have concluded that it is difficult for us to implement the project,” Sumitomo Metal said in a statement.

“We will pull out from all of the pending applications for mining leases,” a company spokesman said, adding the withdrawal will be completed by the end of December.

The Japanese miner declined to disclose its exploration costs and the cost of the legal battle, but said the exit will have a minor impact on its earnings for the current financial year to March 2018.

“During the legal proceedings, nickel prices have plunged. But even if the market picks up, it would be difficult to conduct the project as the social and legal system has not been developed in the Solomon Islands,” the spokesman said.

Sumitomo Metal has said it aims to increase its nickel output from its mine holdings to 150,000 tonnes a year in 2021 from the current 100,000 tonnes.

“We’ll continue to seek new nickel assets through projects in the Philippines and Indonesia, among others,” he said.

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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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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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