IUCN - Talks on mining and greening Solomon Islands’ economy

Talks on mining and greening Solomon Islands’ economy

05 March 2013 | News story

Mining is envisaged to top Solomon Island’s export earnings in the coming years and discussions on the development of a national mineral policy and the green growth development shift culminated day one of the Prime Minister’s High Level Roundtable on Development, Society and Environment being held in Honiara, Solomon Islands.  

Keynote speaker at yesterday’s afternoon session, Mr Poul Engberg-Pedersen, the Deputy Director General of IUCN highlighted the possibilities of partnership between mining and environment interests to achieve the country’s development goals. He stressed the need for free prior informed consent from the communities living in the vicinity of the area where the mine is to be established.

Mr Engberg-Pedersen also made it clear that money is a very important factor in the discussion and there has to be an investment in natural resources and sustainable development, possibly through a process of front loading with investment in natural resources and community development.

“One needs to ensure that the revenue given to landowners is used in the interest of the whole community. This is also an issue of governance where it needs to be ensured that the revenue generated from the industry be used in a productive long-term sustainable manner,” Mr Enberg-Pedersen added.

Mr Peter Forau, Secretary General of the Melanesian Spearhead Group, suggested there be a move from a Brown economy, where the focus is on the Economic pillar of sustainable development to a Green Economy where the focus is not just on the Economic pillar but also on the Social and Environment pillars of sustainable development.

To make the transition he suggested that there needs to be a Deliberate National Policy and to learn from other parts of the Pacific such as Palau. He also suggested there be links to the MSG Green Growth Framework which aims to provide common enablers for promoting Green Growth at the national level but also ensure preservation and sustainable utilization of the shared marine and coastal ecosystems in Melanesia.

“Possible steps to be taken could include placing an economic value on natural capital; integrating economic and environmental indicators; moving to sustainable lifestyles; investing in sustainable infrastructure and renewable energy; and promoting employment,” added Mr. Forau.

Dr Phillip Tagini, Special Secretary to the Solomon Islands Prime Minister, explained the difficulties faced by development in Solomon Islands posed by small dispersed populations in a large ocean. He suggested four principles for a future development model: it must maintain and enhance human relationships, lifts the community and the individual, is based on equity and fairness, and enhances the integrity of ecosystems and life-support systems.

The afternoon also had a presentation from Mr. Rence Sore, Permanent Secretary for Mines, Energy and Rural Electrification who told the participants that mining will soon become the largest contributor to Solomon Islands’ national economy. He also said that although Solomon Islands does not have a national minerals policy or a maritime minerals policy, one is currently being developed by the Ministry. Mr. Sore also said that although the Mines and Minerals Act has been able to guide the industry this far it needs to be modernized. He also informed the meeting of the Ministry’s plans to set up a Minerals Development Authority and a bill in this regard is expected to be tabled in Parliament in March.

Working groups composed of representatives from government, the mining companies, landowners and civil society are discussing these issues and possibilities being offered by the Green Growth development paradigm.

The meeting continues today with discussions on forestry, education, fisheries and tourism sectors.

The three day Roundtable, ending on 6 March, is the Solomon Islands Government’s initiative to find an effective way to achieve a more inclusive model of development – a development model that benefits all the people of Solomon Islands.

The Roundtable on Development, Society and Environment is being supported by IUCN and the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ).

For more information or to set up interviews, please contact:
Mark Borg, Strategic Membership, Partnership & Project Development Officer, IUCN Oceania Regional Office, +679 7772873, e mark.borg@iucn.org

Salote Sauturaga, IUCN Oceania Regional Office Communications Officer, m+679 7437512, e salote.sauturaga@iucn.org