The Solomon Islands is blessed with natural resources – gold, nickel and bauxite are some of the non-renewable resources that lay below the surface.
Also, below the surface lies the dirty dealings associated with the mining sector.
Speculative investors seem to dominate the industry. Many are investors that have transitioned from the forestry sector to the mining sector.
With windfall gains from the forestry sector these ‘investors’ are now carving up resource rich lands throughout the country. Their modes operandi remain the same, deals are cut from up top, with the actual resource owners becoming mere spectators.
The Ministry of Mines remains tight lipped, only to say that there is a process in place that ensures investors within the mining sector are properly vetted.
Unfortunately, most of these investors are perhaps better classified as speculative investors – they go in heavy and leave a big mess behind.
People are desperate, and many locals support such destructive ventures simply because they need the money. Some are actively backing these companies, with very little in return.
The track record of these mining companies is very poor – very little in terms of monetary gains go back to the people and government. Economically speaking, the mining industry is probably the only saving grace for the Solomon Islands in the foreseeable future. With a growing population the pressure that comes with it in terms of government services will only increase in time to come.
The Leader of Opposition Hon. Matthew Wale is calling for a moratorium to be placed on all forms of mining in the country until proper management and regulatory systems are put in place.
“Regrettably, recent history in this sector suggests that competency, reputation, financial and technical capacity which are key prerequisite considerations for eligibility now appear lacking in decision making relating to the granting of mineral rights,” Wale says.
“The current problems are just tarnishing Solomon Islands’ reputation as an attractive investment destination for reputable companies leaving us at the mercy of opportunist operators’ hell bent on serving their own selfish interests.”
The Opposition Leader says that the country needs to enhance its regulatory and enforcement capacities/systems to guard against speculative investors.
A draft national minerals policy was developed in 2017, this resulted in drafting instructions in mid-2018 which formed the basis of an initial mining bill prepared under guidance of the Office of the Attorney-General.
To date not much progress has been made, and while such delays could be attributed to the current pandemic, time is ticking – and our resources are being plundered recklessly.