A report produced by the Attorney General this week points to maladministration and irregularities in the granting of mining leases to Asia Pacific Investment Development (APID) and Bintang Borneo for the bauxite deposit on west Rennell.
Apparently, there was no recommendation or advice from the Mines and Minerals Board to the Minister of Mines to grant mining lease to both companies.
The correct procedure would be for the Board to deliberate on their applications and make recommendations to the Minister.
The Minister having received the recommendation from the Board would proceed to decide accordingly. Granting of mining lease in the absence of recommendations from the Board is a breach of the Mines and Mineral Act (Cap.42)
It is obvious from the start that proper process was not followed and people not consulted as required under law.
Moreover, there are claims that these companies failed to conduct proper awareness on Rennell Island before undertaking prospecting, failed to expend the promised amounts on infrastructure development,failed to conduct proper Surface Access Agreement (SAA) negotiations with all landowning groups, identifying their boundaries, and taking care to identify the right signatories for the SSA
There was an issue of lack of proper consultation from the beginning, both companies were granted a mineral license on the island and people were under pressure to accept what decision has already happened.
Why was the Development Consent granted by the Ministry of Environment without due consideration of whether or not does APID or Bintang Borneo have past mining experience? And if they have, how successfully did they manage environmental and social issues?
Are they even mining oriented companies? TSI searched the Company Haus registry and found out that APID is registered as a private company with Forestry as its main business sector – not mining?
Did the Ministry think differently?
This looks like gross misconduct or corrupt conducts by the past government, responsible public officials within the concerned Ministries of not following the legal processes to reached decisions as required by our laws on this sector.
Despite numerous calls made by Landowner groups, civil society organization, media organization, pressure groups and TSI voicing out concern of irregularities, responsible authorities ignored these and carried on business as usual.
Behind all these failures is a leader or public official who is responsible for ensuring compliance with the law. This was not done for APID and Bingtang Borneo, prospecting license, development consent and mining leases were issued.
TSI calls for action to discipline or prosecute implicated leaders or public officials.
It is important to note that though there is a lot of publicity surrounding the benefits that mining can bring to the economy of this country, unless environmentally and economically sound agreement are carefully planned, negotiated and enforced, mining will bring far more worry than rewards.
People rely on government to make full and careful checks to ensure and encourage good investors.
Decision on mining rest with a number of stakeholders who need to work together, not only for benefits that this sector might bring about, but to protect our environment, our people and our government’s image and our country. This lies in the hands of the landowners, Provincial Government, concerned Ministries and the National Governments.
TSI urges those responsible to be a brave and honest and make decisions that best serve the interest of Solomon Islands people rather than been driven by greed and external influences.
- TRANSPARENCY SOLOMON ISLANDS