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By RACHNA LAL
The proposed multi-billion dollar Namosi copper and gold mine has been the centre of discussion recently.
Tension continues between the landowners and the Australian mining company Newcrest Mining, which leads the Namosi Joint Venture in partnership with Japanese interests.
Prime Minister Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama has said he is stepping into lead the discussions – and has made it clear the views of the landowners must be heard.
The Tikina Namosi Landowners Committee yesterday highlighted some of the concerns of the landowners which they believe the mining company was in breach of.
They also said the issuance of the Special Prospecting License (SPL 1420) was done without their knowledge and consent.
In a statement, the committee secretary Sipiriano Nariva said unresolved grievances and what he called an unethical approach by Newcrest over the years had been a major concern for landowners.
“It therefore gives us great concern in the event the mining licence is granted.
“Misinformation is a common strategy used not only to mislead the landowners but most recently the Fiji public as evident in Newcrest’s newsletters, media releases and project information pamphlets.
“We are at the same time deeply concerned about the repercussion of mining to those villagers living downstream in the provinces of Naitasiri, Tailevu and Rewa.
“We are also concerned with the manner in which Newcrest is advocating the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) when in fact most of the environmental impacts of their prospecting works in Namosi remain unresolved and is still a major concern for landowners.
“To Newcrest, the environment assessment seems to be the solution to all queries raised by landowners and all we have been told was to await its outcome,” he said.
Mr Nariva said they had seen and experienced theimpacts of prospecting works on their land for over 40 years.
“We feel this is enough to assess the environmental and social impacts of mining on their people and our environment, irrespective of what the assessment outcome might be.
In response to these claims, the Namosi Joint Venture said they were consulting directly with landowners and Government through a jointly agreed process.
“The Namosi Joint Venture encourages input from all stakeholders about the project.
“The information we have put out to the public and in our information booklet is correct.
“There is an Environmental Impact Assessment underway with consultations continuing at the end of the month and the process includes extensive consultation with nearby villagers and other impacted or interested stakeholders and a range of studies.
“The assessment will help determine whether a mine can be developed safely and economically and in an environmentally sustainable manner.
“The Government will then determine if a mine can proceed and under what conditions. The NJV will then decide whether to build and operate a mine,” the mining company said.
On the other hand, the landowners acknowledged the benefits received so far in terms of employment opportunities, education assistance, and community assistance.
Mr Nariva said the involvement of NGOs is in no way related to their objective in their initial position that there be no mining on their land.
“It is an insult to landowners for people to say that NGOs should be held responsible for our actions with regards to opposition to the project on environmental grounds.
“It is our land and we are very much capable of thinking and speaking for ourselves.
“We the landowners are very much responsible for our actions and Newcrest should be bold enough to face us and our grievances rather than diverting attention from the real issue.
“In fact we have been requesting for more than two years that there be awareness on the impacts of mining because Newcrest in our view was only informing the people of the benefits of mining. Those requests however fell on deaf ears.
“As a result, it was our decision to seek the assistance of NGOs in order to enlighten the people on the impacts of mining, they were also requested to provide current updates on the impacts of mining from all over the world including our Pacific neighbors,” he said.
Mr Nariva said they have reached a stage where they are so frustrated with Newcrest and Namosi Joint Venture and its activities on their land.
“We have come to a decision to let our intentions known to the whole of Fiji and the rest of the world in that we do not want our land to be mined.
Mr Nariva stated they would be seeking an audience with the Prime Minister to voice their grievances and the decision they had reached communally.