Recent Ministerial visit to mine operation in Rennell welcomed with a different perspective

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By Gary Hatigeva

DESPITE all the negativities and criticisms raised on the recent government led trip to the mining operation on Rennell Island in Rennell and Bellona Province, a lot on the island have termed the visit as positive and timely one.

Although the visit was said to be very short, many thought it has met the objective, which is said to have given an opportunity for cabinet ministers to witness first-hand the mining operations on the ground and its effects on the environment and the people.

Following the visit, Island Sun received calls from many people on the island regarding the trip, which includes Jimmy Festus, who described the visit as very encouraging and a move in a right direction.

“Much has been said on social media and print papers on mining, but unless one pay a visit and set foot on the ground before he could understand the real impact and situation on the ground,” the Tigoa Elder said.

Festus then pointed out that the Government ministers and officers have the responsibility to visit the people and talk to them about their work and responsibilities including issues relating to mining operations, especially in the case of the current operation.

He added that with the wide representation of various but relevant ministries, it is good that the picture on the issue is seen from all aspects through these different ministers under their banners.

However, on a balance, many have also taken their frustrations and concerns to both the local media and online, who expressed fears over possibilities in a compromised report, if it is to be put together on the visit.

Some have expressed concerns over claims that the mining company had paid for all expenses including chartered flights and other expenses incurred.

A local commenting in from Rennell on one of the local forums online, (name with-held), suggested that with Bintan Mining Solomon Islands Limited (BMSIL) meeting all expenses, whatever reports obtained would be subjected to biasness.

This was an issue the government has been very silent about despite follow ups for clarifications on regarding the claims.

The government lead trip to Rennell according to officials was for the observation of the Miner’s Rehabilitation programmes, which came under heavy criticism from the general populace.

Some have suggested that the issue of rehabilitation is irrelevant as it should normally be done at the end of the mining project, and therefore the government should have sent technical people to carry out a proper study and not politicians.

“It would be interesting to know more about the rehabilitation management plan. I believe the management plan should outline the goals of the rehabilitation and the implementation (activities).

“Are they going to use native plants/trees to restore the degraded sites? Are they introducing fast-growing exotic species to accelerate the succession? Vegetation cover is important at the early stage to avoid further degradation by erosion.

“What are they trying to achieve with the rehabilitation? Certainly restoring native biodiversity should be one of the long-term goals. Not forgetting the ecosystem services that were lost as a result of this mining. Invasive species and pest will be a challenge in any rehabilitation project.

“Again how are they going to measure the success? At the end of the day, we are creating a novel ecosystem hoping it will sustain itself in the future,” others questioned in the Forum Solomon Islands International page on Facebook.

Meanwhile, the Tigoa elder thanked Bintan Mining SI Ltd for what he thought, was an opportunity given to the ministers and officials, to pay a day visit to not only observe the status of the mine operation, but so as seeing the status of the Province.

He said the visit also gives an opportunity for the Ministers to have a glimpse on the Provincial Headquarters which has run down tremendously.

The recent visit was led by the Minister for Mines, Energy and Rural Electrification, Bradley Tovosia, who was accompanied by the Minister for Environment, the Minister for Culture and Tourism, the Minister for Public Service, including other top government officials.

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