25 Feb 2019

Environmental group blames Solomon govt’s negligence for shipwreck

7:49 am on 25 February 2019

The Nature Conservancy Solomon Islands, is blaming government negligence for a shipwreck that authorities are calling the worst man-made environmental disaster in the country's history.

Three weeks ago, the bulk carrier, MV Solomon Trader ran aground on a reef at Lavangu Bay in East Rennell, while trying to load bauxite from a foreign owned mine on the island.

The MV Solomon Trader

The MV Solomon Trader Photo: Supplied

Bad weather from Cyclone Oma over the past fortnight has complicated salvage operations and the vessel is now reportedly leaking oil into the ocean.

The conservancy's project manager Willie Atu said this would never have happened if the government had followed important regulatory processes, such as conducting a proper Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), before granting the mine its licence.

"Before a company can be issued a development consent it has to go through EIA so it means like this, every possible thing that you envisage or think that will happen you put it in that paper. That process it gives the public the opportunity to ask questions," said Willie Atu.

"If all this does not happen...the consequences will be with us and it will not only be for one or two days but it will stay here for some time."

Mr Atu also questioned why the mining company saw it fit to try and load bauxite during the cyclone season in Solomon Islands.

Local communities on Rennell have been calling on the government and the company to quickly get the ship off their reef before it causes more damage to the environment.

The Solomon Islands Permanent Secretary and Director of Mines were approached for this story but declined to comment.

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