TRANSPARENCY Solomon Islands (TSI) commends the Minister of Environment, Climate Change, Disaster Management and Meteorology Hon. Dickson. Mua for dismissing the appeal by Solomon Bauxite Limited – Wagina Bauxite Mining against the decision of the Environment Advisory Committee. Mr. Tebukewa Mereki on behalf of the Wagina Island Residents appealed through the Public Solicitors Office to the Environment Advisory Committee that the Director of Environment did not have the power under section 24(3) to issue the development consent to Solomon Bauxite Limited – Wagina Bauxite Mining. After hearing the appeal, the Environment Advisory Committee based on submissions and other information provided to it made the following decision:
- Legislative Procedure for public consultation and the publication of the EIS were not followed.
- That whilst the EIS submitted meet the requirements of the Environment Act 1998, in substance it is but a mere listing and cursory treatment of the requirements of the Act and Regulations. It did not provide acceptable levels of measurable impacts based on rigorous and referenced science and best practice.
- EIS fails to meet the requirement of the Environment Act 1998 and Regulations 2008.
- Decision to issue a development consent is inconsistent with the Convention n Biological Diversity and the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
- The Environment Advisory Committee substituted their decision for the decision of the Director of Environment to revoke the Development Consent to Solomon Bauxite Limited.
This decision of the Hon Minister and the Environment Advisory Committee have created a ray of hope for the resource owners of this country builds some level of trust in the public institutions of this country. Well done Minister and Environment Advisory Committee of your Ministry. Transparency Solomon Islands also acknowledges the work of the former Minister of the Ministry Dr. Culwick Togamana for the stand he took with regard to the importance of investors in the natural resources sector to comply with the law and for exposing the fake gazette before his transfer. It is pleasing to see continuity of work between these two ministers and the public needs to recognize this and get behind them for this conduct is a very rare commodity in the history of those exploiting our natural resources.
Whilst Transparency Solomon Islands commends this decision, it also alerts the minister to the intention of the government to fast track 3 mines in Solomon Islands. The dilemma that the residents of Wagina found themselves in should not be repeated and that investors must take time to ensure they comply with the required processes but more importantly provide the resource owners with experts to help them understand the EIS reports and ensure these documents/reports are not a mere listing and cursory treatment of the requirements of the Act and Regulations in substance. More importantly such report provides acceptable levels of measurable impacts based on rigorous and referenced science and best practice.
Customary owners of the customary land in which these resources are found are more than willing to allow for the extraction of these resources but already as in the case of Choiseul they are no longer to be taken for granted. They are no longer ignorant as assumed by investors of the kind of company they prefer for the government to engage or invite to extract the mineral resource in their land. They prefer that the government find a reputable and experienced mining company than engage a logging company turned miner with no experience at all in mining to extract these resources. Already, they are exposing that the identified mining company to date has done very little exploratory work on the ground and most importantly failed to honour the provisions of the Surface Access Agreement especially with regard to providing employment.
These issues aside, Transparency Solomon Islands commends both the Environment Advisory Committee and Hon Dickson Mua [MP] the Minister of Environment, Climate Change, Disaster Management and Meteorology for job well done. It is time to take the steering wheel of the destiny of this country and demand compliance of investors.