BY JARED KOLI
Controversial miner, Asia Pacific Investment Development (APID) is taking legal action against the deregistration of West Rennell Land and is appealing to defend the cancellation of its Mining Licence.
On October 19, 2020, the Registrar of land titles de-registered APID from West Rennell land Parcel No. 298-005-1 as the titleholder after much debate on the issue.
“… the deregistration of West Rennell Land Parcel Number 298-005-1, we would like to clarify that the matter is already before the court. APID’s Legal Counsel is currently working to get this Title reinstated soon its name through the legal process.
“Similarly, another appeal process is underway to defend the cancellation of the Mining Licence,” the company in a statement to Island Sun over the weekend, said.
It says the cancellation of its mining licence by the Minister of Mines only further complicated the current difficult situation already faced by the mining operation in west Rennell.
Responding to a front-page story by this newspaper on Tuesday last week, the logging turned mining company says any new mining application over West Rennell is illegal and cannot proceed or be processed until such time the issue of the cancellation of its mining licence is determined by the court.
On Tuesday last week, Director of Mines Nicholas Biliki said a new mining company, Nickel Exploration Solomon Islands (NESI) Limited lodged a new Prospecting Licence application for bauxite mining in Rennell Island.
NESI has come out publicly on this issue in a statement to Island Sun on Friday, June 11, confirming it had lodged two applications for prospecting on Rennell Island.
“Those applications have been lodged to the Director of Mines and are presently pending before the Board. The applications comply with the requirements of the Mines and Minerals Act and are to be assessed according to law,” it said in the statement.
NESI said it is a separate legal entity to APID who was the former holder of a mining lease on Rennell Island.
“APID’s mining lease has been cancelled. NESI’s applications were lodged after that cancellation occurred. Notwithstanding the cancellation of the mining lease, under the Mines and Mineral Act, the holder of the mining lease is still obliged to attend to any outstanding remediation works,” it said.
The statement adds NESI is supportive of the performance of rehabilitation works to remediate past extractive activities on Rennell Island.
It says none of its directors are the directors or former directors of APID, the former lease holder.
NESI said it has four directors, two of its directors are Patrick Wong and Fred Tang of Bintan Mining SI (BMSI) Limited.
“Mr Wong and Mr Tang both have valuable experience in mining. However, neither Mr Wong nor Mr Tang are shareholders of NESI. NESI has foreign investment approval and the financial support of its parent company, who has agreed to provide it with adequate financial resources to carry out effective prospecting operations,” the statement said.
Following recent media disclosure of NESI’s application, Erick Tema, a member of the West Rennell Land and Resources Owners Association came out to denounce any forms of mining operation in West Rennell.
Mr Tema told SIBC last week that NESI comprises of the same people with (BMSI) Limited that changed and registered its name again as NESI.
“The land is ours; we have reclaimed it from APID and will never let it again to foreigners,” Tema said.
However, NESI’s statement said their applications do not relate to the land which is registered to Erick Tema and family.
“Mr Tema has been a long-time supporter of mining on Rennell Island and has previously supported the mining endevours of Worldlink Resources Ltd and then later, Winning Resources, both of whom were foreign owned and controlled and have had their tenements cancelled,” it said.
The statement purported that Tema had recently supported another mining company named Florida Mine Investment Company Limited to undertake mining on the land which is registered to him and his family on Rennell Island.
Mines Director Biliki last week said he was not sure about their particular land of interest in Rennell that NESI is applying for the Prospecting Licence but said the application is for Rennell.
Biliki said the Mines and Mineral Board will meet soon to look into the new application and decide on it.
“Depending on a due diligence process undertaken now, the application will be deliberated on maybe in the third quarter board meeting which is three months away,” Biliki said.
Rennell Island, a largest raised coral atoll in the world is rich in bauxite but over the years, logging and mining operations have torn the rocky atoll apart, placing people’s livelihoods at stake. Local Environment Activist, Lawrence Makili earlier told Radio Australia that the government should not allow any more mining on Rennell, and all mining applications should be frozen.