By EDDIE OSIFELO
LANDOWNERS of Central and South Guadalcanal have accused Minister of Mines, Energy and Rural Electrification, Bradley Tovosia of interfering in the decisions of the Mines and Mineral Board.
They claimed Tovosia had requested the Board to reconsider their decision where it rejected Solomon Islands Resources Development’s application for prospecting licence to do mining on their customary land.
“As landowners whose traditional rights will be impacted by any mineral related activity in the area, we have confidence in the technical capabilities of the Mines and Mineral Board to reach the conclusions it has made regarding the applicant’s capabilities,” they said in a statement given to Island Sun yesterday.
Further, the landowners also claimed that they are aware that WinWin Resources is understood to be related to Solomon Islands Resources Development, which is currently under investigation for attempting to smuggle gold from its alluvial mining operation at Turarana area out of the country disguised as a piece of rock core sample.
“Given the record of these types of prospecting companies, including the recent report of an attempt to smuggle items from the flight from China, the landowners have resolved that predatory investors will not be allowed to operate within their traditional lands under any circumstances whatsoever and will take whatever measures necessary to protect their rights and those their communities against such investors,” the statement reads.
Under the Mines and Minerals Act, the Minister can only grant the Prospecting Licence after the terms of access has been negotiated between the landowners and the applicant.
Such an agreement has to be confirmed as a signed Surface Access and Compensation Agreement and vetted by the Attorney General’s Office.
The landowners believed SIRD is related to other companies under various names including Win Win Resources Ltd operating in the Turarana area in the vicinity of the former Goldridge Mining Lease and probably, holding mineral prospecting license under different names in other parts of the country.
When Island Sun contacted Tovosia, he demanded to know who the landowners making allegation against him were.
He urged the media to check the Mines and Mineral Board.
Director of Mines and Chairman of the Board, Nicholas Biliki confirmed the Board had rejected the company’s application because it has no relevant technology and finance to carry out the work.
Biliki said the company can appeal the Board’s decision if it is not satisfied with the decision.
Permanent Secretary of Ministry of Mines, Energy and Rural Electrification, Dr Christopher Vehe said he was aware that the Mines and Mineral Board had already rejected the company’s application because of incompetency.
In a letter which bears the signatures of the leaders of the main traditional land owning groups in the area which covers Sutakama/Sutakiki and Goldridge (Central Guadalcanal), Kuma and Koloula (South Guadalcanal) dated July 29, 2020, addressed to Tovosia, and copied Biliki, and the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry Dr Christopher Vehe, the landowners advised Minister Tovosia that they will not grant access to the applicant.
A leader of the landowners advised that a formal complaint will be lodged to relevant authorities including the Leadership Code Commission to investigate whether the Letter of Intent and a Prospecting License reportedly granted by the Minister to SIDR was done in accordance with procedures prescribed under the Mines and Minerals Act and also determined whether Public Officers in the Ministry of Mines have abused their offices if the Letter of Intent or Prospecting License have already been granted.