15 Apr 2019

Logging and mining threatens Solomons social security - academic

12:05 pm on 15 April 2019

Logging and mining activities are threatening Solomon Islanders' social security, an Australian academic and environmental management expert says.

MV Solomon Trader oil spill on Rennell Island, Solomon Islands.

MV Solomon Trader oil spill on Rennell Island, Solomon Islands. Photo: The Australian High Commission Solomon Islands

Environmental damage from extractive industries was in the spotlight again in February when a cargo ship loading bauxite on Rennell island, ran aground on a reef in Lughu Bay, spilling more than a hundred tonnes of heavy fuel oil into the ocean.

After weeks of delays, international salvage crews have contained the spill but a massive clean-up operation is still underway with the assistance of Australia and New Zealand.

Questions of liability, inadequate legislation and corporate responsibility have been pored over again and again, with the maritime incident being described by the country's prime minister as the worst man-made environmental disaster in recent times.

University of Queensland senior research fellow Simon Albert has spent the last 15 years trying to help both the Solomon Islands government and local communities with environmental management and protection.

Dr Albert said with most Solomon Islanders living in rural areas, the environment is their social security and safety net but it's being destroyed by logging and mining.

"There isn't a lot of effort put into a broader environmental management framework to look at the barriers and interventions that can prevent the Rennell situation from occurring," he said.

"To think of the environment in the Solomons, I often think about it as a form of social security or welfare,"

"So it's the intactness of the Solomons' environment that provides that backstop or that security for people to turn to when they face economic challenges."

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