BY BARNABAS MANEBONA
THE fight against mining prospecting to take place on Ngella seems to have failed.
Ngella’s famous Forum (NGF) Team were on a mission to object a surface agreement on prospecting that certain Ngella landowners and Chiefs signed with SOLFISH Company on July 23 along, Sandfly Passage.
The only hope to stop the operation to take place fell under the mining regulations that other members of the same land area signed may object within 30 days being a requirement under ‘The Mines and Minerals Regulation 1996’. If this succeeded then the possibility for the Ministry to issue a licence would not be possible.
However, it is understood that the 30 days for Objection had already lapsed last week on August 22.
On Central Islands Province (CIP) Provincial Government side over business license, once indigenous landowners have signed the agreement and the Ministry of Mines issue’s SOLFISH Company’s license then they will have no option but to issue as well the company a provincial business license to operate being under law.
Despite of such according to Mr Alan Christian Siale the Provincial Secretary (PS) of CIP to Island Sun, it is the Provincial Stand all alone that the Province does not support nor entertain logging and prospecting and eventual mining on Ngella Islands.
The tourism industry is the main focus to open and avail land for rural development.
He said the Provincial Executive will meet in two weeks time hence a moratorium on logging, prospecting and mining Executive Paper will be table based on sustainability and current base line logging impacts and likely impacts of prospecting and mining on the Islands in which there are no reports to form the baseline state of the forest and impacts of prospecting and mining on Ngella Islands.
“The lapse of the 30 days period is for the objection to be implemented by NGF. Whether they do it or not in time is a matter for Ngella Forum to answer. The option to be undertaken by the Province is above as stated,” clarifies CIP’s PS.
PS Siale expressed on behalf of CIP that they feel the current Forestry and Mining Acts and their regulations inclusive of the code of practice are not adequate.
“There is no inbuilt check and balance provisions based on the environment and sustainability of maintaining the livelihoods of the people of Ngella hence for the Province and the relevant Ministry to form the basis of granting Licenses and Letters of Intent, Prospecting & Mining Licenses,” said PS Siale.
CIP views the current legal frameworks and in the absence of those internal check and balance provisions on the current legal frameworks, the approval of licenses for logging and mining without an informed environmental impact assessment based on current activities is a blow to the environment and leads to depreciation of the natural resources of Ngella people.
Environmental Statements are not good enough given previous environmental destructions being already done by the logging industry on Ngella Islands.
Given the depleting natural resources and the ignorant innocent land and resource owners giving away concession areas and surface access for tenements, land degradation is going to be an issue including the sea, rivers and stream systems on the Islands.
PS Siale said it is the position of the Province now to do an interim moratorium be effected immediately, also an Environmental Assessment to be done immediately (against the variables of water, sea sedimentation and land degradation and increasing population) and based on that Environmental Report, a total ban be imposed for Logging and Mining on Ngella Islands.
Out of the agreement signings that took place last month, 48 out of 53 participants signed the agreement having five ignoring it. Signings taking place has now caused huge stir of conflict amongst the indigenous people of the island not wanting such activity to take place there.
Mr Kenneth Sagupari on behalf of NGF Team’s plan to Island Sun earlier was to focus on North Ngella’s side along Mboli and Belagha Districts because it is most Chiefs from there who had signed the surface access prospecting agreement with SOLFISH Company.
“If we do not make the appeal then the Ministry of Mines will issue the license. As soon as the Ministry issue’s the license then CIP’s Provincial Government will have to issue the licence because the company has completed the process and there is no reason the Provincial Government will not have to issue the license,” said NGF Team worried.
To note, CIP’s Provincial Government is even yet to complete the assessment over logging impacts on Ngella too.
CIP’s Premier Hon Patrick Vasuni stressed that when they are yet finding ways to totally ban logging on Ngella and come up with plans in how to replant forest trees and such after damages to the environment have taken place, mining activities will only disturb their plans.
“How come will we accept mining or prospecting activities to take place on Ngella when logging has already caused negative impacts on the island causing us yet to re-solve the destruction it has left behind,” stressed the Premier.
Attempt for comment from SOLFISH Company over the issue was not possible.