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No mining extraction in Namosi, Vosarogo clarifies

The Ministry of Lands and Mineral Resources has clarified that there no mining extraction is taking place in Namosi as a Special Prospecting Licence only allows for exploration.

Responding to speculation that actual mining is happening in Namosi, Minister Responsible Filimoni Vosarogo said these concerns warrant his response on behalf of the Government to provide proper context against rumours by shedding more light on this issue.

Vosarogo said the Namosi Joint Venture (NJV) has been around since 2001 therefore it would be understandable that information out there regarding the project may be misconstrued or misrepresented over time.

He said the previous Government pushed past the concerns of the landowners at critical stages of the exploration and because it was never resolved, it is bound to spring up again.

The Minister said now it is time to address it and form a genuine tripartite approach to this development as a possible contributor to our economic future, the well-being of the landowners, the business confidence of the investor and proper management of the environment impacts.

“NJV was first granted a Special Prospecting Licence (SPL) in 2001 to explore minerals, and this SPL has been renewed several times to ensure the company carries out a thorough exploration with extensive research of the mineral prospects.”

“There is no mining, and the project is being closely monitored by my Ministry. In addition, the issuance of the SPL was done with strict adherence to the Mining Act with all the necessary environmental safety and safeguards checked out,” Vosarogo said.

He also highlighted that one of the requirements under the Act is that mineral exploration, especially intrusive methods such as exploration drilling, are not undertaken “within earshot of community members’ homes and schools” but areas for drilling are identified and discussed with the landowning unit.

Vosarogo said that the Mining Act is very clear on lands or areas closed to prospecting or exploration which includes any i-Taukei village and any land within 30 meters of an inhabited house or building, except with the written consent of owner or occupier.

“Through the Mineral Resources Department’s Mining Division, the Ministry is committed to educating the community about resource development and how critical steps of the exploration permit involves the landowners to be informed.”

“It is also focused on delivering its key strategies to ensure the continued growth of the resources industry and to maximize the economic and social return to Fiji and, particularly, the landowners.”

Vosarogo said that on the other hand, there is already speculation on the type of mining that will be undertaken-These are unfounded and grossly mischievous to say the very least.

“It is premature to pre-empt the nature of potential mining operations, given that part of the research and development done by NJV is running iterations around optimum mine design to ascertain how best to sustainably undertake any potential mining operation that attains social, environment and economic balance.”

“Such iterations or designs are conceptual at this stage, and nothing is set in stone.”

He said the Ministry is firm on the precautionary principle which is about attaining balance and the same needs to be proven by the project proponent for any mining proposal and the world over appreciates that for all mining activities, there will be some form of environmental impacts.

Vosarogo said the challenge is to ensure that the impacts are manageable and where rehabilitation is necessary, it becomes a priority in any issue of a licence to mine.

He said the Coalition Government through the Ministry will continue to engage with all relevant stakeholders in the mineral development space and would like to encourage individuals and organizations to reach out to the Ministry to discuss matters or concerns relating to mineral development, as we all have a shared interest in the economic recovery of our country post-COVID and its sustainable economic growth and development.

“There are also insinuations of a takeover of land or territory. This is simply not true. Government cannot function without the rule of law and due process.”

“There is due process to be followed when investors express interest in establishing mining projects, which includes surface access to land through the relevant land administrator related to land tenure,” he further stated.

Ilaitia Ravuwai
Ilaitia Ravuwai
Journalist | news@fijilive.com

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