Government hires foreign legal advisor for its Mineral Resources Bill 2022
THE thorny issue of who owns what is below six feet in the ground is being included in the Government’s new Mineral Resources Bill 2022.
Ownership of mineral deposits below six foot, even on customary land, has always been a controversial issue between landowners and government.
To find a way out, the Ministry of Mines, Energy and Rural Electrification hired Professor William Kosar – a Canadian now living in Kenya – to help put the Bill together. Prof Kosar left the country last week.
In a briefing with journalists last week, Prof Kosar described the Mineral Resources Bill as “shoes for Solomon Islanders’ feet,” according to notes given out to reporters.
“A made in Solomon Islands solution following international best practices,” the notes said.
“Ownership of a mineral located in or on Solomon Islands land … waters is vested in the people and Crown (Government) regardless of:
“where … the mineral is located or whether the mineral is dissolved or suspended in … waters or located in the seabed or subsoil of those waters,” he said.
He stressed that in dealing with matters concerning minerals in Solomon Islands, the government “must at all times, act “on behalf of the people of Solomon Islands and in the best interests of her people.”
Prof William said the Bill was intended to address, among other things, “the natural resources world is rapidly changing as is the demand for minerals.”
Solomon Islands’ Mines and Minerals Act is now three decades old and “has failed to keep up to date with advancement in other sectors.”
The Bill also proposes setting up of a Mineral Resources Special Fund within the meaning of section 100(2) of the Constitution.
“The purpose of the Fund is to receive and hold payments made by holders of mining tenements into the Fund. The Fund shall be the principal depository for all revenue sourced from mineral exploration,” it said.
It shall be held by the Central Bank of Solomon Islands.
The Bill also proposes setting up a Solomon Islands Minerals Advisory Centre (SIMAC) to support landowners and communities by providing training, consultation and awareness activities and facilitating independent advice at all stages of the mining life cycle.
‘SIMAC shall have a permanent or semi permanent presence in Provinces an communities where mining is taking place,” the notes said.
Women shall be “substantially” included in community level negotiations and decision-making regarding mining activities.
“Where possible, a community or landowner group will benefit from mine-related training, scholarships, employment or other similar benefits men and women will, as far as possible, shall have equal access to those benefits.
It is not clear when the Bill would go to Parliament, although Prof Bill said he was hoping it would be presented to the current sitting of Parliament.
By Alfred Sasako