Mining and forestry are generating big revenues for governments, at the same time generates serious negative impacts.
TSI believes that decisions are much taken at the upper level with investors, while the people are consulted on very limited basis or as usual short notice.
Proper consultation has been lacking and more often people are forced to accept what has been given.
The Ministry of Environment just done that, granted a Development Consent without given enough time or without due consideration.
Transparency Solomon Islands was concerned to learn that the Director of Environment has recently granted a Development Consent to Asian Pacific Investment Development (APID), a company who is interested to mine Rennell Island.
The Director granted the Development Consent after an Environment Technical report was submitted by APID to the Environment office.
The APID Environment Technical Report clarifies both the advantages and disadvantages of mining Rennell Island.
It also outlines the potential mitigation measures that the company could take to limit the negative impacts.
One of the suggested mitigation measures that concerns TSI and needs to be carefully considered by Landowners, provincial government and the concerned ministries is the issue of relocation.
This is because villages housing approximately half of the Rennell population sit on top of the mineral deposit.
Obviously relocation of people and amenities is a huge undertaking and due to its nature therefore should proceeds with caution guided by a clear comprehensive financial and social plan.
Does APID have the financial capacity to implement such undertaking?
How well will they address the environmental and the social implication?
Having searched the Company Haus registry, TSI found out APID is registered as a private company with Forestry as its main business sector – not mining.
Does APID have past mining experience? If so, how successfully did they manage environmental and social issues?
Why the Development Consent was granted with these questions unanswered needs to be explained by the concerned authority.
However, the people of Renbel Province who feel that the decisions should be reconsidered can challenge it under section 32 of the Environment Act.
Section 32(1).Any developer or person who disagrees with any decision of the Director under this Part may within thirty days of publication of the decision appeal to the Advisory Committee.
Section 32 (2).The appeal shall be in writing and clearly set out all grounds of the appeal. A copy shall be served on the Director and on any relevant public authority.
Section 32(7). Any person aggrieved by the decision of the Advisory Committee may within thirty days from the date of such decision appeal to the Minister who shall make such order as he considers just.
TSI believes that using the law to challenge the unjust decision is the right approach to undertake.
TSI is also concerned about the short period of time provided under the Environment Act for viewing reports of this kind and making comments.
In this case, the Notice of Meeting concerning the Environment Impact Statement was issued on the 9th of May 2014.
It informed people of public meetings on Rennell on the 23rd, 24th and 25th of May 2014.
The notice was published in the newspaper on 23 May 2014 .
The notice informed people that they had a further 14 days after the meeting to comment on the report.
Many of the rural people have low literacy levels and English is their third language.
Is it reasonable to expect them to read and understand a 57 page report and lodge their objections in such limited time?
The implication here is that members of the public were not given enough time and information to constructively participate and raise questions before the Development Consent was issued.
This is sad and very unfair.
Whilst there is a lot of hype surrounding the benefits, mining will eventually bring far more worry than rewards.
We have seen what happened on Nauru and that should teach us to be cautious when dealing with mining on a small island like Rennell.
The decision whether or not to allow mining lies in the hands of the landowners and the Provincial and National Governments.
It is a big decision.
TSI urges you not to make it in a rush.
We want to know what you think about this issue.. Call TSI on 28319, email [email protected] or get in touch via our facebook page www.facebook.com/TransparencySI
By TRANSPARENCY SOLOMON ISLANDS