Isabel leaders refuse government’s 12-month timeframe for Nickel project
BY BEN BILUA
GOVERNMENT plans to fast track the Isabel Nickel project is crushed by Isabel leaders’ decision to ‘take time’ on mineral developments in the province.
This week, Isabel leaders including Paramount Chief Bishop James Mason, Bishop of Isabel Diocese Ellison Quity, Premier of Isabel Province James Habu, Member of Parliament for Hograno Katova, Kia and Havilei, Opposition Leader Jeremiah Manele, gathered at Buala to be part of consultations organised by the government to review the Mining Policy.
Briefing the seminar, Bishop Mason warns the government not to take for granted the Isabel Nickel Project especially when land is concerned.
He said there are a lot of land disputes in Isabel and that Axiom and Sumitomo have fallen victims to these disputes.
Mason said the timeframe of 12 months scheduled by the government is not acceptable.
“This is because the Isabel Council of Chief (ICC) is still developing a land profile for 2016 to 2020.
“It would not be appropriate for any major development while the ICC is still to complete this task.
“ICC would like to first find out whether it would be better to have the Isabel Council of Chiefs to deal with land disputes or to leave the current process as it is,” he said.
Mason said the land belongs to Isabelians and it must be left to Isabelians to deal with their land.
He said ICC is in the process of having all customary lands registered before any development takes place.
On the same note, Bishop Mason emphasised that regulation to manage nickel development must be enacted separately from gold.
He stressed that the existing Mining Act and royalties are applicable only for gold and that Bauxite and Nickel are not covered.
Mason strongly emphasised the need for each mineral to have its own regulations.
He adds, Isabel has a youthful population and organised groups such as the Isabel Provincial Youth Forum, and such youth groups should be invited to the table to participate in decision making.
Mason said Isabel youths have the brains and expertise of Isabel hence should be granted the opportunity to decide their own future.