GOVERNMENT last year came up with a policy to fast-track three mining operations for the country.
This was devised with the intention to generate much-needed revenue for the Government in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The mining operations were earmarked to take place in Isabel, Choiseul and Renbel.
All three mining companies, who were also loggers, have been issued prospecting licences. They are now waiting for their mining leases.
But while the Government is moving into mining, we must be careful not to repeat the mistakes of the logging industry.
Opposition leader Mathew Wale made a good suggestion on how the Government should play in the emerging mining industry.
One of those suggestions is the establishment of a State Owned Enterprise (SOE) that would invest in the mining sector.
Such an SOE, according to Wale, could hold shares in other mining companies and may self-form wholly owned mining companies.
He said the SOE would ensure that ethical behavior and practices are followed by companies and transfer pricing is eliminated.
“The SOE would also be a platform for share interests for landowners of locations where various operations occur.
“Such an SOE would be linked to a Sovereign Wealth Fund or Future Fund, into which all mineral revenue should go to be invested for the benefit of future generations of Solomon Islanders.
“The SOE can acquire the technical capacity and funding it needs.”
What Wale was suggesting is not only genuine, but the way forward for the country if it is to be in control and benefit from the mining industry.
The logging industry should provide us with enough lessons already.
Although it contributed to 70 per cent of our foreign earnings, it did very little to improve the livelihood of our people.
Furthermore, it was an industry largely driven by foreigners. Our people, who are the forest owners, were mere by-standers.
This is why our people were left high and dry at the end of every logging operation on their land.
Now, we see that some of these loggers are migrating to mining.
Unless we set a new operations manual in the mining industry, these same loggers will come in and continue the same standard of practice they’ve been used to in the logging industry.
We don’t want the mining industry to be another get-rich quick scheme for foreigners.
As a country and people, we must be in charge of the industry. We should be the ones calling the shots and set the operating standards.