9 May 2002

Solomon Islands to reconsider importing hazardous waste

10:05 am on 9 May 2002

The Solomon Islands foreign minister, Alex Bartlett, says importing hazardous waste into the country will be discussed again by cabinet.

But, he has ruled out Solomon Islands accepting any nuclear waste for storage.

Last week, cabinet approved a deal which would have seen a license issued to a Taiwanese company, Primeval Forests, allowing them to dump a total of 3 million tonnes of hazardous waste in Makira Province.

Mr Bartlett was unable to say whether a license, which was expected to have been issued this week, had been granted.

"Even if license was issued, if all the considerations have been taken into account, and they out-weigh the positive side of this product, I think there is no hard and fast rule, not to rescind that kind of permission"

The deal with Primeval Forests would see the company paying 200 million US dollars as a down payment and 35 million dollars per shipment, dumping 10,000 tonnes of hazardous waste at a time.

A sample of the waste tested by two Taiwanese laboratories shows toxicity levels higher than that permitted by the Waigani convention which bans the importation of hazardous waste into the region.

Mr Bartlett says Solomon Islands is a signatory to that convention and cabinet will consider the issue again.

The South Pacific Regional Environment Programme, or SPREP, says Solomon Islands may lack the laws to enforce the Waigani Convention.

Bruce Graham of SPREP says each country has to enforce the convention, and the Solomons has not done this.

They're certainly being offered money to do thais and they're desperate for it so this is the sort of thing that happens and its the sort of reason as to why the Waigani convention was introduced.

Bruce Graham says apart from diplomatic protests there is probably little other countries can do to stop the dumping.

The secretary-general of the Pacific Islands Forum says the organisation will deal with the Solomon Islands waste plan if it becomes an issue.

Noel Levy says the Solomon Islands government knows what its obligations are under the Waigani convention and he is sure it won't make a rash decision.

Until a definite decision is taken, we will just observe what is going on and we hope that, you know, common sense will prevail, at the end of the day.

Noel Levi in Suva