‘MINE DOOM’

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Leader of Opposition Hon. Mathew Wale. Picture Supplied
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Wale warns Mining path to follow Logging misfortunes

By Alfred Pagepitu

THE Leader of Opposition, Matthew Wale has warned that the shift by former logging companies into the mining sector will perpetuate the exploitative economy that impoverishes the large majority of Solomon Islanders who are increasingly marginalized

Mr Wale was speaking in his debate on the 2021 Appropriation Bill in Parliament yesterday.

He stressed that in-country mineral processing was included in the government’s redirection policy, however no programme or funding was made available to advance this policy.

He said the manner in which tenements have been allocated betray three things:

“Firstly, there are former loggers who have migrated to mining and are holding licenses. We can take from this that the practice of merely extracting resources and shipping them overseas will continue.

“Just as in logging, it will be difficult to see processing with such operators.

“Further, the corruption with transfer pricing will continue as with logging. This represents bad choices. Secondly, processing requires economies of scale to be viable.

He said by allocating small tenements to many small companies, the government has shot itself in the foot and precluded the possibility of processing in-country.

“This questions the government’s sincerity in its redirection policy statement.

 Mr Wale further points out that the quality of the investors holding tenements leaves much to be desired.

He mentioned that all these factors combine to betray that fact that the mining industry will become like the logging industry – a get-rich-quick industry for foreigners.

“This industry will perpetuate the exploitative economy that impoverishes the large majority of Solomon Islanders who are increasingly marginalized. There are just too many poor choices being made in this. Should we blame our founding fathers for this?

On the long run, the Mining sector from 2016-2020 contributes an average of 0.1 percent of the total government expenditure.

Mr Wale stressed that this sector contains some low hanging fruit, given the current economic situation and the need for government to make revenue gains.

Mr Wale also spoke of the need to have a geoscience lab (Geochem. & petrological lab) fully funded.

This he said is key to the government assessing the true quantity and value of ore shipped overseas.

“It is also critical to determining the right international market price applicable to the grade of ore,” he added. …More on his budget speech in our next edition