Environment Minister exposes huge loss to Solomon Islands over ore-export trend
By EDDIE OSIFELO
SOLOMON Islands has not earned maximum returns from the bauxite mining operation in Rennell Island since operations began in 2014.
And, the country is bound to repeat this with other mining operations in other parts of the country.
Minister of Environment, Climate Change and Disaster Management, Dr Culwick Togamana revealed this in parliament, implying that we are missing out on billions of dollars from the practice of exporting ore rather than purified metals.
Before outlying the figures from the bauxite, Togamana referred to the words of Governor General David Vunagi – “we are blessed with fertile soil and good climate but still lagging behind our neighbours”.
Togamana, MP for Maringe Kokota, said Rennell has about 26 million metric tonnes of bauxite.
He said in dry ore tonnage, it translates to 18.2 million metric tonnes of bauxite with an average of 30 percent moist content.
“The 18.2 million metric tonnes at the current price of USD$14 per tonne should fetch us USD$254.8 million for the entire deposits.”
Togamana said for aluminium, which they can get from bauxite, it should give them 8.6 million metric tonnes bauxite. This is at the cost USD$150 US per tonne; that should fetch Solomon Islands USD$8.2 billion.
“If further extract aluminium, we should get 4.55 million metric tonnes of aluminium from the total of 26 million of bauxite ore.
“If we sell that at the current price of USD$2,300 per metric tonne, it should fetch us USD$10.5 billion,” he said.
Further to that, Togamana said direct shipment of ore is a trend which is similar for nickel in Isabel as well as gold in Gold Ridge.
He explains that mining companies in Solomon Islands are now increasing concentration, which is not adding value.
“My plea to MPs is we have a collective responsibility to provide the good leadership that come up with policy directions that add value to this so we can maximise the economic returns that should be obtained from our natural resources.
“I continue to make plea here that direct shipment of ore is not an option that we should entertain,” he said.
Meanwhile, Togamana said they are processing a Climate Change Bill.
This bill will propose a framework to address this issue especially to set standards, also our commitment to international communities in addressing this issue of climate change.
The bauxite mining in Rennell started in the 1960s by a Japanese company Mitsui, but it abandoned it.
In 2014, Asia Pacific Investment and Development Limited (APID), which carried out logging on the island, had sub-contracted Bintan Mining Company to carry out mining.
The mining is still continuing on the island.
Togamana made these comments during his contribution on the debate of the Speech of the Throne delivered by Governor General in Parliament recently.
Parliament will resume on Monday, August 26.