The Fiji Sun has mostly trivia or biased tit-bits, but occasionally there is a serious article and here is one. Anecdotes from both Bua and Namosi people have indicated the problems with mining and the possibility of future mining in these areas. My view is that feasability studies always must look at possible damage to the environment. Is the trade-off of some money coming in worth it? I don't think so. Exploitation is the word that comes to mind. I have put into bold parts that I think are most important.
What do mining companies bring?
“To waste, to destroy, our natural resources, to skin and exhaust the land instead of using it so as to increase its usefulness, will result in undermining in the days of our children the very prosperity which we ought by right to hand down to them amplified and developed.”
In 1995, the inter-governmental panel on Climate Change [IPCC], a UN sponsored group of 2400 scientists from around the world, issued its report that Global Climate Change [GCC] is anthropogenic, which means human-caused.
They reported that industries, like mining has greatly contributed to GCC, as the result of the devastation of pristine forests and natural ecosystem which had severe effects on human societies.
All types of mining activities have far more negative impacts on the environment and our livelihood than we ever imagine.
This had been proven in many host countries where mining projects were pushed by multinational companies of Chinese origins and World Financial Institutions like World Bank, International Monetary Fund and Asian Development Bank.
(story about the devastation caused by mining in Ghana deleted here.)
EIA focus mainly on the physical impact on the environment and does not reflect a process of effective community participation in decision making on the pros and cons or the negative social impacts of mining.
Traditional title holders or chiefs sometimes make decision themselves, but when there are negative environmental fallouts, the whole livelihood of the community is drastically, unfairly affected especially women and children. The weaknesses in the process have provided the leeway for mining operations and severely impacted the environment, crippling the grassroots attachment with their natural world and deepening their plight.
In the village of Waivaka, of Namosi Province (Copper mining) and Kilaka, Kubulau in the Province of Bua(proposed Bauxite site) the first worrying thing that comes to mind are the livelihood of the future generation of this country.
The Namosi copper exploration in Waisoi has been in existence in the last 40 years and ever since the Central Mining Finance started exploration it has seen different companies taking over its running. After CMF, Anglo, AMAX and Placerdoom Exploration took turns. Currently Nitetshu, Mitshubishi and Nucrest are in partnership with landowners, called the Namosi Joint Venture [NJV] of which the Tui Namosi Ratu Suliano Matantobua is the chairman.
The exploration site is owned by the mataqali Dakunibure, Vanuaca and Nabukebuke.
There was a committee set up in 1985 to hear grievances. They were called Namosi Landowners Committee. Their role was to hear the mataqali’s grievances and to address any complaints from the people.
According to Mr Petero Leveni - the spokesman for the landowners committee and the Catechist - Mr Timoci Belena, both of Waivaka village, there had been lots of negative effects in their environment and the lives of the people such as:
r Effects on food security and source contamination which resulted in the devastation of food source like-freshwater prawns, fish, eels, and shells which inland rural communities depend so much on.
r Loss of traditional herbs like “Vobo”- (used for cold and fever) and other medicinal plants that locals depend on.
r The continuation of work on Sunday which affects the people’s relationships and deepens existing fragmentation.
r The physical changes of the Waivaka River, Delailasakau and Naseuvou.
r The loss of wild pigs and birds due to the devastation of their habitat.
r Deforestation, soil erosion, air & noise pollution.
When the company drills a hole, a chemical is used for drilling.
When the holes over flows during a heavy down pour it flows downstream and ends up in the nearby streams, creeks and Waivaka River.
Mr Leveni said that, whenever they wanted to raise these issues with authorities they were often told “to be mindful of their protocol by following the right channels of communication”.
In other words he is not obliged to speak directly to the management or his traditional leader himself.
The communities were also told to increase agricultural production of rourou, dalo, tavioka and other root crops and supply it to the mine for employee’s consumption. But later on found out that these are bought from a local Chinese company instead of the people of Namosi.
Mr Leveni said there is a lack of transparency and accountability in the mining operation in Waisoi. All agreements made are written in English and elders in Waivaka or any other land owning unit will not be able to understand.
On the positive side it has provided employment for community members. Two women who worked in the mine (names withheld) said that the Waivaka River had really been affected but they do not want the mine to close because it has given them employment.
For exploration of bauxite in Nawailevu and the proposed site in Kilaka in Bua the Chinese company called [Xinfa] Aurum Exploration (FIJI) Limited is involved and has an office in Savusavu town. The licence for exploration was granted to Chinese based company Aurum. Exploration began in 2001 in Nawailevu, Bua.
Bauxites are a sedimentary rock formed by weathered volcanic rocks. The material is mainly extracted by open-cast mining, which has a variable and highly site-specific effect on the local environment. The primary ecological concerns connected to this operation are related to the clearing of vegetation, destruction of species and their habitat and soil erosion.
In Vietnam, India and some African countries it has resulted in massive devastation to the eco systems.
It is obvious that the water is always brown in colour - rain or sunshine. The communities said that it is the effect of Mount Kasi exploration over the years. This needs further assessment and verification.
All mining projects produce negative impacts on all who live in mining communities especially women and children. It is important to understand that companies usually enter into negotiations with mostly men and women are excluded from payments of compensation or royalties and employment opportunities. They are often deprived of the means of traditional occupation and become increasingly dependent on men. Mining involves the replacement of subsistence economies that have fed generations of families and landowners.
It also brought with it disputes, deeper fragmentation and destruction of traditional values and customs which is needed in sustaining solidarity and unity of families, mataqali, yavusa and the vanua. The workload and responsibilities of women increases tremendously, causing more stress and tensions.
In addition, the environmental destruction caused by large-scale mining also reduces the productivity of the fields and poisoned wild foods, marine life and animals.
The Social Empowerment and Education Programme tries its best to raise awareness with landowners so that proper consultation with all members of their communities and experts to enable them to make wise decisions in resource utilisation.
The Government, through its department of environment should be watching the activities of these multi-national corporations closely and ensure that they act responsibly and in accordance with International Environmental Laws and Corporate Social Responsibility.
It is prudent that mining be conducted in a manner that reduces the potential for drastic imbalances by minimising its impacts on the local environment. It is also important that every effort must be made to limit the environmental cost of mining and minimise the impact on the natural surroundings to protect the livelihood of future generations.
(Mr Leo Nainoka is the advocacy coordinator of Social Empowerment Education Programme (SEEP))