Isabel Bishop says they are not ready for mining

The country is not ready for mining, says Anglican Church of Melanesia’s Bishop and Isabel Paramount Chief James Mason.

He made the observation during last week’s National Conference on Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative.

“I felt that there’s no justification for the poor land owning tribes who were always the losers in their own lands.

“The country is not ready for mining!”

Nickel was discovered in Isabel more than 40 years ago, and an Australian mining company Axiom, has been speculating on the region’s substantial deposits for several years.

Mining interests in the country have moved quickly in recent years from a single development at Gold Ridge, to recent operations in Rennell, and progressing plans for nickel and bauxite mining in Isabel, Choiseul and Wagina.

In 2011 the company signed a 50-year deal with landowners for a 45-square kilometre area estimated to contain nickel ore worth almost US$60 billion.

Mason said that before going into the mining sector, existing laws and legislations must be reviewed and land owning tribes empowered.

“Our existing laws seemed outdated and must be reviewed to patch up the loopholes.

This is to make sure we don’t repeat what happened in our forestry sector.

“For us Isabel people and the entire nation, we need to understand mining because it would be worse than the logging industry if there’s no review of our laws and people were not well aware of its impact.”

“Land owning tribes were always blinded and bulldozed by little money that the companies lied to them with,” he said.

“We must not repeat but to learn from our neighbouring nation Nauru, where what can only be seen were pinnacle of rocks standing idle there. Their resources have been taken away.”

At the Forum the Minister for Mines, Energy and Rural Electrification David Day Pacha made the commitment to review mining legislation to ensure the industry is beneficial to its stakeholders.
at a national mining forum in Honiara last week.

Pacha says the reform programme will cover processing, negotiations, compliances, royalty, management and the protection of the environment from the effects of mining.

He says the reform will consider the loopholes and weaknesses within the Mines and Minerals Act and bring in amendments to ensure past mistakes are avoided.

In 2014 Mason was also called back to Melanesia to chair a discussion on plans for mining on the province.

The meeting brought together more than 150 delegates from the church and the community, as well as developers and government officials.

Mason was installed as a paramount chief of Isabel in 2010.

Before taking up his current position in England in 2004 Mason was the first diocesan bishop of Hanuato’o, where he served for 13 years.

He is presently vicar of St Maurice Church in Plypton and an assistant bishop of the Diocese of Exeter.

The Diocese of Hanuato’o was inaugurated at St. George Church now renamed as St. Peters Cathedral, Kirakira on 29th day of June 1991.

There are no regions setups in the Diocese as in other dioceses, except for Parishes.

The diocese has 15 Parishes and 32 active clergy.

The diocesan headquarter is in Kirakira, Makira Ulawa Province.


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News category: Asia Pacific.

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