Mining a better future for Solomon Islands

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Isabel Women and Audience during Mining Forum in 2013. Photo: TNC-Robyn-James.
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BY ELLISON.T.VAHI

Isabel Women and Audience during Mining Forum in 2013. Photo: TNC-Robyn-James.

WITHOUT proper planning and access to information, developments like mining will threaten the natural resources Solomon Islanders depend on.

While mining offers opportunities for economic development, without adequate management, it also poses direct and urgent threats to livelihoods, culture and social well-being.

With this at the forefront, The Nature Conservancy (TNC), had worked with community groups to hold workshops and provide information through a program called “What Is Mining?”

This has been designed to help Solomon Islanders understand the impact mining could have on their lives and their natural resources.

Partnering with community-based women’s groups in particular is to both ensure that women were a part of the conversation and to empower women to make their voices heard.

In collaboration with the Isabel Mothers’ Union, TNC have trained 40 community facilitators to raise awareness about the importance of well-informed and inclusive decisions around big issues such as mining.

To date, this work has reached over 12,000 people in remote communities, and their input is informing the national mining policy reform process.

The mining awareness work, led to the first-ever national mining forum. TNC facilitated the event that inspired the government, industry, the civil society sector, landowners and communities to work together to identify major opportunities and challenges around this industry.

Participants from Papua New Guinea and Australia have also share their stories.

Now TNC is engaging women by investing in strong leaders and diverse and inclusive work environments.

This approach will helps women create more prosperous and healthy futures for themselves, their children, their environment and their communities.

It will see women are able to support women from other provinces in their quest to also understand mining and be more involved, as the spirit of cooperation at the forum resulted in a recognized set of resolutions.

Twenty-six resolutions were declared and endorsed by more than 80 percent of participants.

One of the most important resolutions is: “Ensure women have a voice in all negotiations, decisions and in the management of benefits.” This is a resolution that the women were already implementing during the forum itself.

This work has resulted in the drafting of a new Minerals Policy for the Solomon Islands based on the resolutions agreed upon at the forum. In addition, an independent centre to advice communities on important decisions around their resources has been proposed.

With good planning and management and meaningful inputs from communities and women, the Solomon Islands has a fantastic opportunity to pave the way for a more sustainable minerals sector.

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