22 May 2017

Miners under police protection in Temotu

3:33 pm on 22 May 2017

Several personnel from an Australian mining company are under police protection while visiting Temotu province of Solomon Islands.

Dump truck at a bauxite quarry.

Photo: Copyright: babar760 / 123RF Stock Photo

The arrival of Pacific Bauxite representatives comes as debate intensifies over the provincial government's move to grant the company a business license.

A groundswell of community concern about the company's project centres on claims that landowner consent was not properly secured.

According to a provincial government minister, Father Brown Beu, those people against prospecting are not even based in Temotu.

He said the miners were genuine investors who will bring development to the remote province.

"Yes they definitely are protected by the police. Their protection is.. I say 100 percent. There is a segment of the community who since have wanted to stage a peaceful protest against the government, the police in Lata are not accepting. They won't consent to this."

A concerned landowner in Temotu, Ruddy Oti, has been collecting affidavits signed by landowners who feel they were misled by the mining company when it sought to get landowner consent.

He said that earlier there were some individual landowners who had been approached by the company who gave their consent.

"But the process in which their consent was acquired was not proper. After Ocean Watch did some awareness in Nende, there was some sense of realisation among these landowners who had previously given their concern, then they eventually agreed to have their consent revoked."

At this stage, Pacific Bauxite has only conducted early prospecting activities such as sampling.

"So until the prospecting lasts three years, unless that is done, then we'll be able to ascertain as to whether there is enough minerals in the soil for mining later on," Father Beu explained.

"And that of course depends on the people. Once the reports have come out and the people basically 'no we don't want mining' then that's it, it's finished."

But Father Beu, a former provincial premier, insisted that as one of the least developed provinces in Solomon Islands, Temotu needed the kind of investment the bauxite project would bring.

"Unlike other investors who are invested in Temotu Province, the AU Mining (50 percent-owned by Pacific Bauxite) will shortly after this be able to provide medical facilities that we will never - I don't know, centuries to come - never have."

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