9 Aug 2023

'Left behind by govt': Indigenous landowners oppose mining in Namosi

5:06 pm on 9 August 2023
The censored Namosi protest photos. Something you won't see in Fiji's mainstream media.

From December 2011: The people of Namosi staged a quiet protest against the proposed mining project on their land at Waisoi. Reps from Namosi Joint Venture (NJV) turned up for a meeting with the villagers in the area where the landowners are worried about the potential environmental effects and the loss of mataqali (landowning unit) lands. Photo: Facebook.com / Ricardo Morris

A community group in Fiji has called on MPs not to renew a mining exploration licence in the Namosi region of Fiji's Viti Levu.

Exploration has been going on in the area for more than 50 years but this week Australian based multi-national Newcrest, through its Namosi Joint Venture, is seeking to have its exploration licence for its Waisoi site renewed.

But civil society group, LAMA, or Lomani Au Maroroi Au, which approximates to 'Our Land is our Heart' is opposed to any mining in Namosi.

With the backing of most landowners it has today, Wednesday, august 9, lodged an objection at parliament to a licence renewal.

Spokesperson for LAMA, Sipiriano Nariva, said an open cast mine would be devastating for the community.

"We talk about the environment. We have been left behind by the government. We have been left behind by the developer," Nariva said.

"They just want to cut for their mine, but they leave us with their waste. We have come across several years of exploration, but we have been left behind, we have been victimised, our environment has been terminated by this development."

Newcrest said that the joint venture team had been working hard to ensure the community was both aware of and consulted about its Waisoi project, which it stressed was still at the exploration and pre-feasibility stage.

It said it is currently conducting technical studies, community consultation and stakeholder engagement to try and find a commercially, environmentally and socially acceptable development concept.

When the LAMA group handed its objection to MPs at parliament earlier today, just one opposition MP and none from the government attended.

Today, August 9 was chosen for the objection to be lodged because it is International Day of the World's Indigenous People.

Another Fiji NGO, SEEP or the Social Empowerment Education Programme, said it is an important day and opportunity to acknowledge the indigenous people in our communities.

Executive director Chantelle Khan said in Fiji "we recognise and support our indigenous groups including Lomani Au Maroroi Au (LAMA) from the Provinces of Namosi and Naitasiri".

"As stewards of some of Fiji's recognised rich and diverse biodiversity hotspot, these communities and their people are determined to safeguard their natural resources and continue fighting for their voices to be heard," Khan said.

She said SEEP reminds the coalition government of President Wiliame Katonivere's statement in June this year to the World of Work Summit during the 111th Session of the International Labour Conference in Geneva that Fiji joins the international community in affirming the fullest expression of Indigenous peoples' aspirations.

Khan said it was time for Fiji to finally hear the cries of the indigenous people in Namosi and Nawaidina.