MANY Solomon Islanders and even the court have been led by hired QC lawyers of APID to believe that APID mining lease of West Rennell has merit; but where did that merit comes from?
If the merit of APID mining lease comes from some politicians in the Government Executive that manipulate the administrative system to meet their agenda then that is possible.
But to say that it comes from the support of the laws then I doubt it very much because the law is clearly stood oppose to the issuance of APID mining lease by the Minister of Mines.
Here is some information about APID that I convinces me to allege that here is no merit in the Minister of Mines issuing her a mining lease to mine West Rennell.
The acquisition of more than 62,000 square kilometres of West Rennell by the Commissioner of Lands, which is10 times the area originally granted by the Mines and Minerals Board to APID on the 5th December 2008 as PL04/08 in my legal opinion is illegal.
Now readers need to note that the areas of about 560 square kilometres originally granted to APID prospecting license wasfor a period of 3 years: 5th December 2008 until 4th December 2011; but because APID failed to do any prospecting work in the three years she applied for an extension and was granted by the Mines & Minerals Board in its meeting on the 16th November 2011 for a year only and that should take PL04/08 until 4th December 2012.
According to section 24(2) of the Mines & Minerals Act an application to the Director of Mines for a renewal, it should be for a period not exceeding two years and the area must be reduced to an area of not more than half of the initial area covered by the license.
Surprisingly, after the expiry of the extension period on the 4th December 2012 the Mines & Mineral Board again in its meeting on the 28th November 2012, a few days before the expiry of APID PL04/08, the Board extended APID prospecting license for another two years which takes the license another three years, and the Board action in my legal opinion contrives s24(2) of the M&M Act.
What further concerns me is in the second renewal of APID prospecting license instead of the Mines and Minerals Board further reduced PL04/08 into a quarter of the original area it adds prospecting area named Tenement B or PL05/08 which increases APID prospecting area to 1,200 square kilometres.
The worse thing happens, when APID prospecting area was finally registered by the Commissioner of Lands it was more than 62,000 square kilometres; and this huge increase raises doubts to the merit of the process of APID mining lease.
So in brief, the M&M Board breached the M&M Act for renewing twice APID PL04/08 for a total of three years instead of two years as stipulated in s24(2) of the Act and APID failure to meet the 30 days before the expiry of her prospecting license when applying to the Director of Mines for a renewal of her PL04/08.
APID acquisition of surface access rights for prospecting breached Section 21(4)(a-d),(8) and (11)(a-b) of the Mines Act (2008).
APID claimed to sign Surface Access Agreement on 10th April 2014 with the original customary landowners for accessing land for bauxite prospecting on West Rennell; but how did APID prove that those that they signed an agreement with are the true landowners of West Rennell when many of the lands included in the prospecting tenement are still pending in court?
I don’t need to list every unsettled land cases pending in court but only advice the Commissioner of Lands, the Director of Mines, and those who think that my argument is baseless to go to the Chair of West RennellCouncil of Chief, Clerk of the Rennell Bellona Local Court Office, Secretary of the Customary Land Appeal Court and the Listing Coordinator of the High Court and ask them and one would be shock to learn that there are too many unsettled land cases; but who signed those lands to be include in APID Mining Tenement is surprising.
According to Section 32 (4)of the Mines and Minerals Act 2008, it says these, “where a commercial discovery has been made, the Director may thereafter, in consultation with the applicant, enter into negotiations with the landowners or any person, or groups having interest in the land to acquire surface access rights for mining”.
It further states in subsection (5) that only “where there is no dispute and agreement is reached as to subsection (4), such agreement shall be reduced in writing and the content thereof is a prime face evidence of the names of the landowners or land holding groups having rights over the land and amount of surface rental and compensation”.
So APID, how have you identified your landowners amidst the number of land cases still pending in court and many disputed areas?
And who did the Director of Mines or APID entered into negotiation with to acquire surface access rights for the lands in court to mine because I have not seen one of them being in Rennell to identify the true landowners as required by law?
According to Section 36 of the Mines and Minerals Act, the Director of Mines must assist the landowners and the applicant so that surface access rights are acquired.
The M&M Act is veryclear on who should come between the landowners and the applicants, which in our case APID that “It is not the work of the applicant or agencies[but] the Director who is expected to do negotiations and consultation with the applicant and the landowners or land owning groups to achieve surface access rights [and] thereafter make arrangement for surface rental and compensation for any damages”.
It appals me to note that the role that was entrusted by law to the Director of Mines was transferred by theDirector to APID Project Manager, Solomon Maui, to do it on his behalf; yet such illegal move was accepted by the keepers of the law to have merit, what a shame!
As I write I am being informed that APID and her contractor Bintan SI Mining is financing some so-called landowners to come over to Honiara to sign and they are currently accommodating them at Green Hotel.
How did you know they are true land owners when many of them lost land cases in court to those of us who have not sign for you APID?
The public needs to be informed that any decision the Minister may take in regards to prospecting licence or mining lease must first obtain advice from the Board pursuant to Section 6 and 11 of the Mines and Minerals Act.
It is interesting as to how the Minister of Mines issued a mining lease to APID when the Board by its letter of 26th June 2014 said that it resolved that the application for mining lease has been approved with the following conditions: to be fulfilled as part of the mining lease; third party review of the mining proposal; land acquisition, registration and agreement, and more landowners and community awareness.
When the Minister of Mines did was being informed that APID had met the conditions laid down by the Board; and if there is as I have never been made aware in any landowners and community awareness program that APID met all the conditions?
But if there is reason that the Minister of Mines issuances of APID mining lease was because she met all the conditions, can the Minister provide our West Rennell public the Environmental Report or Development Consent produce by a third party report to justify the one produced by the Director of Environment in his APID sponsored trip?
And can the Minister of Mines and the Commissioner of Lands provide reasons as to why APID Mining Tenement includes lands still pending in court and why it includes the low water and the high water marks of West Rennell?
Why did the Minister issued APID a Mining Lease without due consideration of the reserved and protected areas?
The Minister by issuing APID Mining Leased failed the people of West Rennell by not preserving and protecting the reserved area and prohibit the carrying out of reconnaissance, prospecting or mining on our village, place of burial, tambu and site of traditional significance, farming land as required in Mines Act (2008), s.4(1) (2)(a)(b).
The Minister and the Mines Board failed also failed to direct APID and its agents and servants to comply with the provisions of the Mines and Minerals Act therefore, there is no merit in APID Mining Lease to continue and those that involved in the process of APID obtaining a surface access rights for prospecting and mining should be investigated and possibly send to jail for breaching the Mines and Minerals Act; but if not throw the Act into the fire because it does not make any sense if it is not followed.
Upon the above allegations may I call on Janus Task Force to investigate how APID obtained a Mining Lease at the expense of the law of this country and the people of West Rennell.
By RICHIE T. PUTANGATA