Friday, 26 June 2009 9:31 AM

Solomon Island Mining

Dear Editor

I have changed the topic because the discussion has taken on a larger picture but I am still responding to Alfred Sasako.

My discussion should not be restricted to alluvial mining or hard rock mining. It applies to mining in general. In any form of mining, the bottom line is that the indigenous people must not be put at a disadvanatage, be it in the royalty payment or from the pollution emitted from the mine.

The 50/50 percent issue has been clarified by Alp in this paper. I am glad the debate had prompted him to clarify it but it remains to be seen whether it will come into fruition. Let's hope it does. It goes to show what is discussed here is not in vain!

On people's perceptiona about Alfred's report on Pheonix International and Alp, I will leave it to the members of the public. It is beyond my control.

On the issue, whether PNG has anything to offer Solomon Islands on mining, it is best I correct his mistaken view. Alfred knows very well that the mining industry in PNG has been in operation for many years. This obviously means that PNG has a lot of expertise in manpower in mining. This is one area that PNG can contribute well to the infant mining industry in Solomon Islands. It is not for Alfred to say whether PNG can or cannot contribute because he does not have the mandate. The mandate to do say whether PNG can contribute lies with the the Solomon Islands government and if such a request comes through, I am sure the PNG government will seriously consider it. If I may, I should remind Alfred that the framework for such cooperation is already in place with the formation of the Melanesian Speahead Group (MSG). It is obvious that Alfred has not read the agreement setting up the MSG. I direct him to http://www.vanuatu.usp.ac.fj/library/Paclaw/Agreement%20Establishing%20the%20Melanesian%20Spearhead%20Group.pdf to read article 2 of this agreement. He will be surprised!

Furthermore, Alfred cannot tell me that PNG has not contributed or will not contribute to mining in Solomon Islands. May I remind him that mining engineers are trainned at the Department of Mining Engineer at Unitech, Lae and Geoloist through the Bachelor of Science programme at the School of Natutal & Physical Sciences, UPNG. I am sure some of the Engineers and Geologists working with the Solomon Islands government may have trained at these two PNG Institutions and many more will do so in the future. I would'nt be surprised if some the Geolist(s) or Engineer(s) currently working with Pheonix International were trainned at the two PNG Institutions! Is'nt that part of PNG contributions to mining in Solomon Islands? I am sure Solomon Islanders who have received trainning in PNG in mining related disciplines will not be happy with Alfred for saying that because if PNG's contribution is not recognised, indirectly you are also not recognising the Solomon Islander's own contribution to the industry.

Alluvial mining has been practiced in PNG since 1873. Rather than having companies like Pheonix Internation come in to Solomon Islands to do alluvial mining, it may be an idea for the Solomon Islands' government to encourage and strengthen the indigenous Solomon Islander's capacity to do alluvial mining. That way, instead of the indigenous people getting only 50% of the revenue, they in fact get 100%. That way the miners retains most of the revenue and most of the funds remains in the rural economy. In recognising the importance of alluvial mining to the locals, in PNG donors like AusAid had provided assistance though education, extension and training facilities to the grassroot miners. I suggest Alfred read the report by Professor Surek Bodia (former Head of Department of Mining Engineering, Unitech) on small scale gold mining and marketing in PNG which is freely available on the internet.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this letter/article are those of Charlie Kieu and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Solomon Times Online.

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