To Namosi and Back

UPDATED. READ ON.
 Like so many things in Fiji, and elsewhere, it is difficult to get to the bottom of many news stories. My thanks to Tevita Korodrau on Facebook's Fiji Economic Forum for these two stories on the Namosi mining saga. Unfortunately, he provided no links to the stories so I do not know if they were published, and I can provide no links.

The first story is by Noelene Nabulivou, who works for WAC, Women's Action for Change, a respected NGO dealing with a wide range of community issues.  The second is by Rachna Lal, a top ranking journalism student at USP, who now works for the Fiji Sun, that some  see as  a pro-government newspaper.  This post concludes with  a comment from Epeli Hau'ofa that traces the origins of this project back to Tui Namosi, and a note from Rishab Nair, also on Facebook's Fiji Economic Forum that looks at the price of copper and gold.



Villagers Say 'No Mining.'
Noelene's story concerns a meeting in Waivaka village, Namosi, between villagers and a deputation led by the head of Mineral Resources Department, Malakai Finau. The visitors were met by the community protest banners flying proud and high in their village – ‘NO MINING’, ‘SAVE OUR PARADISE’. The villagers' concern was that the developers had breached their agreement with villagers (we were not told how) and the delegation's concern was that the villagers  had blocked road access, pending outstanding grievances against the mining consortium, that have not been resolved for over 12 months. The villagers appear to have taken control of the meeting agenda  and the police pointed to the illegality of their action by saying "Lift the ban or be taken to jail." An unwise and senseless bluff that did nothing to reduce tensions.

"The final comment came from the Turaga-ni-Mataqali or the clan headman, an old Methodist catechist:" I am the landowner, are you threatening me? If you want to remove the ban, then you remove it. But hear me today – we are not going to remove the ban and allow access, not today not ever. You want to take us to jail, go ahead and take all of us. You say that what we are doing is illegal – what about what NJV (joint company)  is doing to us – their lies, their illegal activities that has breached our agreement; is that legal? Why are you not arresting them, why do you come here to us?’".

The villagers then forsook Fijian protocol and left the meeting paying no further attention to the visitors,  who they considered had not answered their questions or addressed their concerns.

What is not clear, though, is whether the villlagers' concerns are  limited to the alleged breach of agreement or whether they are saying no to mining under any conditions.


Environmental Impact Assessment 
The second story by Rachna Lal provies information on work so far which indicates the development of a mine is not a foregone conclusion, and that NGO and villagers' environment concerns may be premature:

Public consultations on the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for the billion dollar proposed Waisoi copper and gold mine in Namosi and Naitasiri Provinces will continue at the end of this month. The Waisoi project is currently in the exploration phase.

The project is handled by the Namosi Joint Venture (NJV), a group of three companies assessing potentially mine mineral resources in Namosi and Naitasiri provinces. The venture includes Newcrest (Fiji) Ltd (70%),  Mitsubishi Materials Corporation (28%) and Nittetsu Mining Co. Ltd (2%). Newcrest is the operator and manager of the Namosi joint venture.

The purpose of the next round of consultation sessions is to provide information about the proposed mine and seek feedbacks from villagers and other stakeholders.

Information would include what the potential mine may look like, the proposed location of the main components including open pits, tailings dam, power plant and roads, as well as the environmental management plans.

The environment impact assessment will help determine whether a mine can be developed safely and economically and in an environmentally sustainable manner.

It is a requirement of the Fijian Government and is being conducted by Golder Associates, an independent and internationally experienced firm, in conjunction with the Institute of Applied Science at the University of the South Pacific.

The environment impact assessment process includes extensive consultation with nearby villagers and other impacted or interested stakeholders. It also includes a range of studies including environmental studies of flora and fauna, river systems and aquatic life, assessing potential noise and dust, traffic, social and cultural studies including current community health and cultural heritage.

The data collected during the environment impact assessment will be assessed to determine the impacts and how these can be mitigated. The Government will then determine if a mine can proceed and under what conditions. The joint venture will then decide whether to build and operate a mine.

Consultation session locations and dates will be advertised in local papers and radio stations.

Ed. note: Anti-Government blogs have made much of this issue.  The protests are not political and they are not against government as such.  They revolve around alleged breach of agreement with the mining consortium, government's perceived alliance with the consortium, and with environmental concerns that I share.   As earlier reported the PM has now taken charge of the negotiations.


 Epeli Hau'ofa posted this is Facebook's Fiji Economic Forum:

Maybe if Dalo Fried Fish & Moli [another commentator] used more energy to call on countries such as AUS and NZ to relax on sanctions and travel bans etc. Fiji may not feel such an economic need to allow mining at Namosi just yet. As far as mining companies' attitudes towards the environment goes, you can't make an omelet without breaking the eggs.

Now, let's get one thing straight here. DFFM accuses the regime and foreigners of pushing for this mining project... WRONG!!!!Tui Namosi initiated this from day one.

Indigenous rights are in danger here.... WRONG!!!!
No different from when the chefs decided too sell all of Fiji's Sandalwood in the 1800's this project was initiated through the use of indigenous custom and cultural protocols. The Tui Namosi has simply got to rethink whether mining is in the interests of his people.

Simply put.. The very mining project DFFM is against is a result of the very autocratic culture they want too preserve, yet somehow they also want democracy.... Now that is simply DEMOCRAZY!!!!

Dalo Fried Fish & Moli, stop blaming the government and foreigners. It's only through the very cultural mechanisms you want to preserve that this mining project got started. Seriously! Some of you people overseas simply have no clue. [Slightly amended. Ed.]

A Namosi copper mine has been talked about for...
Rishab Nair 10:02pm Jan 16
A Namosi copper mine has been talked about for more than 30 years. Why this sudden burst of activity now?

The price of copper having hovered around US50c between 1997 and 2003, shot up to US$3.50 in 2006, fell to about $1.50 around 2008 and has been rising since then.

It is now above $4 per kg – or eight times higher than 15 years ago. Even if it falls to half this level in the long term, this has the potential to be a very profitable mine.
Gold

There are also reasonable quantities of gold associated with the mineral deposits in Namosi, and gold prices have also had a miraculous rise. From being below US$500 an ounce up till 2003, it has steadily shot up to more than US$1500 per ounce.

There is every indication that the rise in gold prices will not be reversed. There is increasing political uncertainty in the world, the US dollar has declined as a reserve currency for the rest of the world, stock markets are increasingly fragile after the global financial crisis, and there are other fascinating reasons such as the century old love of China and India for gold, boosted by their recent meteoric rise in global international power.

Not only has the Vatukoula Gold Mine became a bonanza, but the gold portion may be the icing on the cake for the Namosi Joint Venture copper mine.

In short, the dramatic rise in copper and gold prices has made the mineral resources in Namosi well worth investing in.


POSTSCRIPT FROM ANONYMOUS 17.1.12

Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "To Namosi and Back":

From sources in Namosi villages,

There is one proposal that involves relocating a couple of villages to land near Navua.

I've been told that some villagers have accepted that offer and some have not.

It is still sketchy on what the names of the villages are and the proportion of those accepting relocation and those who not, but one thing is for sure there is some resentment against the Tui Namosi, who has been actively lobbying for the relocation.

What also remains to be covered in-depth, is the compensation package for the relocation and what role and cut did Tui Namosi receive.

Equally concerning about the re-location, was the issue of their traditional plantations, fishing rights in rivers/creeks etc.
Is this similar to Monasavu dealings, when the project was brokered by some high ranking chiefs at the expense of the real landowners.

Comments

Anonymous said…
From sources in Namosi villages,

There is one proposal that involves relocating a couple of villages to land near Navua.

I've been told that some villagers have accepted that offer and some have not.

It is still sketchy on what the names of the villages are and the proportion of those accepting relocation and those who not, but one thing is for sure there is some resentment against the Tui Namosi, who has been actively lobbying for the relocation.

What also remains to be covered in-depth, is the compensation package for the relocation and what role and cut did Tui Namosi receive.

Equally concerning about the re-location, was the issue of their traditional plantations, fishing rights in rivers/creeks etc.
Is this similar to Monasavu dealings, when the project was brokered by some high ranking chiefs at the expense of the real landowners.

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