13 Nov 2013

Solomons mining hopefuls questioned over environmental and social problems

2:49 pm on 13 November 2013

Companies wanting to mine Solomon Islands' Isabel province are being asked how they will manage the environmental and social problems that may result from their operations.

Local people are raising the concerns at a mining forum ending today involving more than 150 delegates in the provincial capital, Buala.

Annell Husband reports.

"Two companies vying for the rights to extract nickel from Isabel - Sumitomo from Japan and Axiom from Australia - presented their mining plans for the province. The delegates all acknowledged mining's potential benefits - from new employment opportunities, greater financial security to new infrastructure such as schools, roads and medical clinics."

But women representatives expressed grave concern about environmental pollution as well as social problems, such as alcohol abuse, prostitution, law and order issues and the breakdown of traditional land tenure systems. Isabel's paramount chief Bishop James Mason urged delegates to protect the land for future generations and the provincial diocesan bishop Richard Naramana emphasised the importance of including women and youth in decision-making. Bishop Naramana called for meaningful decisions looking at all options for development, saying economic growth could also come from agriculture and tourism.