Santa Cruz landowners declare stance
By EDDIE OSIFELO
HONIARA based landowners from Santa Cruz in Temotu province have signaled a ‘No’ to bauxite mining on their land.
The landowners made their stand clear when they met with Director of Foreign Investment Division (FID) in the Ministry of Commerce, Industries, Labour and Immigration, Lynette Dawheya yesterday.
They warned the government not to accept Santa Mining Limited by giving it a Prospecting Licence as it could lead to another dispute or uprising as seen with Australian mining company, Pacific Bauxite and Malaysian logging company Xiang Lin SI Limited in 2017.
Spokesperson, John Lee Bade said one of the reasons is because the logging dispute case between landowners and Xiang Lin SI Ltd is currently before the court.
Bade said the landowners also found out the application by the interest company, Santa Mining Limited, was submitted through Office of Prime Minister instead of FID.
Further to that, he said Director of Mines is still to give a letter of cancellation to Pacific Bauxite, while opting to select a new company.
Director of Mines, Nicholas Biliki said his office has received an application from Santa Mining Ltd and it is going through the vetting process.
Santa Cruz has become a center of international attention in 2017 due to community protest against Pacific Bauxite mining company at Nendo and burning of machineries belonging to Malaysian company, Xiang Lin SI Ltd by the activists called “Nende Five”.
The landowners of Nendo protested against Pacific Bauxite by blocking roads with stones and allegedly confronting miners with bows and arrows to stop the operation.
Information at that time suggested Pacific Bauxite owned 50 percent of AU Capital Mining, the entity which in 2015 won a licence to prospect for bauxite at Nende.
The Temotu Provincial government granted a license to the mining company after they voted in Premier David Maina to replace Nelson Omar in late March 2017.
The landowners opposed mining because of the environmental destruction it would cause to their ground for future generations.
On the other hand, the “Nende Five”, were arrested by Police for burning logging machinery of Xiang Lin SI Ltd in 2018.
In 2020, two of the accused were sentenced to prison while the other three were acquitted of the charges.
According to Mongabay, Jerry Meioko was convicted on charges of larceny and unlawful damage while Clement Tauto became the only defendant to be convicted of arson, which carries a maximum penalty of life in prison.
“The activists were part of a long-running campaign to stop logging on their island, which began in 2017.
“They claim the operations are illegal because the provincial government of the time had allowed Xiang Lin a logging permit, known as a grant of profit, without consulting local landowners by holding timber rights hearings, a legally enshrined process for constituting timber agreements,” Mongabay says.
“In protest, they had written to Xiang Lin and the provincial government, and obtained a stop-work order against the company for breaching the logging code.
“But the logging continued, and Godfrey Meoblir’s crops were destroyed to make logging roads. When burnt-out excavators and bulldozers were found at the logging site in May 2018, the five activists were taken into custody,” Mongabay says.
Mongabay said the legitimacy of Xiang Lin’s grant of profit was challenged by representatives of landowners on Nende in the High Court last year, but the judge ruled in the company’s favor.
Meanwhile, the three former Temotu provincial government leaders who approved the license were charged with accepting corrupt payments for the grant of profit and are awaiting trial.
“Now, the company is using its permit to expand operations beyond the two blocks of land in its original concession to an area northeast of the island, said activist Oti,” Mongabay said.
As such, the landowners repeated their call to the Government with “No to Mining”.