Bishop James Mason, the Paramount Chief of Isabel and first Bishop of Hanuato’o Diocese, returned from England yesterday to lead more than 130 Solomon Island politicians, environmental experts, mining representatives and community members in an open discussion on what mining will mean for Isabel Province.
The Isabel Forum on Mining will run over three days between November 11 and 13 in the Provincial capital of Buala. It has been called by the Isabel Council of Chiefs, the Church of Melanesia and the Isabel Provincial government, and is being organized with assistance from The Nature Conservancy (TNC), Solomon Islands.
Also attending the discussion will be Isabel Province Premier James Habu, Guadalcanal Premier Stephen Panga, and senior representatives from the Ministry of Energy and Mines, and the Ministry of Environment, Conservation, Disaster Management and Meteorology.
TNC Solomon Islands program manager Willie Atu says that while the forum was arranged for the Isabel community, mining is a national issue and it is very encouraging to have national government representatives attending, as the forum will have implications for all Solomon Islanders.
“We have been working for some time in Isabel and the message we have received loud and clear from communities is the need for more discussion and information on mining.
“Isabel has already been prospected widely, principally for nickel and gold extraction. Mining could start in Isabel – and Choiseul too – very soon.
“While the mining sector offers opportunities for economic development, without adequate management it also poses a threat to biodiversity, culture, livelihoods and social wellbeing. Government and local organizations have very limited experience of working with mining companies, and local communities have had almost no information on what mining might mean for them. All have called for education.”
Atu says the aim of the forum is to give all sides a fair hearing. “Mining companies, Sumitomo and Axiom, are also presenting to the forum. We feel it is very important all sides have an opportunity to speak and to ask questions of other presenters, whether they be politicians, ministers, miners or community members.
“We hope this will be just the beginning of a wider discussion on mining – how we manage it and what environmental and legal safeguards are put in place.”
Speakers at the forum will include overseas mining experts, as well as community representatives from Australia, who have extensive experience of mining within communally owned lands.
Press Release: The Nature Conservancy
The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. The Conservancy and its more than 1 million members have protected nearly 120 million acres worldwide. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the Web at www.nature.org.