MINES and Minerals minister, David Dei Pacha says the government will review the Mines and Minerals Act.
Mr Pacha said the main areas of focus in the reform program cover the processing, negotiations, compliances, royalty and managing and protection of the environment from effects of mining.
He pointed out that the reform will thoroughly take into account loop holes and weaknesses within the current Mining and Minerals Act and bring in amendments that will ensure the mistakes experienced from the past are avoided.
Mr Pacha highlighted Government’s commitment during the three-day national mining forum held in Honiara this week.
“We no longer have time to play lip service,” he said.
“The government is committed to working with ministries, landowners, civil society, industries, men, women and youth to learn from the mistakes of the past to ensure we have a strong mission forward in the mining and minerals industry in our country.”
He said minerals are non-renewable resources.
“Their lifespan and their economic benefits are limited. We do not need to rush to develop these resources but we do need to move fast to put in place the policies and mechanisms we want to govern their development.”
Pacha added mining interest has moved quickly in recent years in the country from a single development at Gold Ridge, to recent exports from Rennell, and progressing plans for nickel and bauxite mining in Isabel, Choiseul and Wagina.
He said the tenement map of Solomon Islands also reveals large areas of our ocean covered by under-sea prospecting licences.
Mr Pacha said these developments demand a need to strengthen the laws and enforcement capacity of the ministry responsible as an immediate priority
“It is clear however that more laws by themselves are not the full answer. Ministries need the capacity and the drive to enforce the laws.
“Issues of compliance with the current Mines and Minerals Act have led to lengthy and costly litigation for the case of Axiom and Sumitomo.
“The rights awarded to mining companies in Rennell are also set to come before the Courts. This sends a negative message to reputable potential investors in the mineral industry.
“Failures to adhere to the law also cause disputes and distrust internally within communities and with Government. Thus this forum is an opportunity for positive and constructive ideas to improve.”
He added a national Minerals Policy is an important step in defining our nation’s direction for the mining industry in this regard.
“This forum provides an important and timely opportunity to bring together the key stakeholders and use the discussions and resolutions here to finalize that policy.
“This forum comes at a crucial time, a time to take stock of where our country is now and where it could be. To learn lessons from our neighbors’ and to listen to key stakeholders in Government, industry, civil society, landowners and community groups.
“Working together to creating resolutions towards a better social, economic and environmental outcome for our country and finally, to set a path to implement those resolutions together,” said Mr Pacha.
By BRADFORD THEONOMI