SUNBIZ

Kulukulu Ready For Advanced Exploration: Magma Mines

Advanced exploration of black sand mining in Kulukulu, Sigatoka, will commence within the next five to six years, Magma Mines has confirmed. Determinants  Magma Mines accredited agent geologist, Suliana Niurou,
29 May 2021 14:54
Kulukulu Ready For Advanced Exploration: Magma Mines
Aerial image of Sigatoka, showing an outline of onshore iron sand deposits, marked with a yellow line.

Advanced exploration of black sand mining in Kulukulu, Sigatoka, will commence within the next five to six years, Magma Mines has confirmed.

Determinants 

Magma Mines accredited agent geologist, Suliana Niurou, said the next phase of development hinged on global demand and price of iron ore.

“National elections are also a determinant for these developments, because mining is a very sensitive sector heavily dependent on foreign investors,” Mr Niurou said from his Valelevu home in Nasinu Town.

“Magma Mines will not proceed with its work for as long as this pandemic lasts.”

Magma Mines suspended its Fiji operations in mid-2020, after COVID-19 impacted exploration and testing, he said.

The company is a subsidiary of Dome Gold Mines Limited, an emerging iron sand, copper and gold exploration company based in Australia.

Dome Gold Mines accredited agent geologist, Suliana Niurou and Dome Gold Mines chairman Jack McCarthy.

Dome Gold Mines accredited agent geologist, Suliana Niurou and Dome Gold Mines chairman Jack
McCarthy.

Report 

The revelation followed the launch of a negative civil society report on black sand mining in Fiji.

The report, A Line In The Sand, cited the impact of mining on its surrounding community.

The report was launched in conjunction with a Zoom consultation, through the joint efforts of Jubilee Australia Research Centre and Macquarie University’s PACE programme, Caritas Fiji and Fiji Council of Social Services.

Chairman 

Dome Gold Mines chairman Jack McCarthy said the report contained numerous examples of false and/or misleading statements or claims designed to create concern and upset the community.

In his response to SunBiz queries, Mr McCarthy said the report aimed to damage Dome Gold Mines Ltd and the authorities that monitored the company’s work.

“I am dismayed that at this time, when the COVID-19 pandemic is seriously impacting the good people of Fiji, and experts with various responsibilities for the health and welfare of the population are working hard to alleviate fear, a document that attempts to create worry under the pretence of concern is being given any credence,” he said.

Mr McCarthy was speaking from Australia.

“Dome, like all other exploration and mining companies that are attempting to create value from natural resources in Fiji for the benefit of the people as well as the company, are required to comply with many regulations that protect the population and environment,” he said.

“In my experience, these regulations are implemented by experts in the Mineral Resources Department and Department of Environment, with high degree of skill.

“I offer my prayers that God grants Fiji a rapid recovery from the virus emergency and the country quickly can return to its friendly and relaxed way of living.”

The planned iron sand mining site is located next to the Kulukulu Sand Dunes, an area that is a proposed World Heritage Status.

Magma Mines special prospecting licence for Kulukulu was first issued in 2012, and currently expires in February 2022.

Magma Mines is one of two operators of black sand mining in Fiji.

Amex Resources 

Amex Resources Limited is the other such miner, operating out of the Ba River mouth, with a licence that is said to span 45 years.

Amex Resources said it would lodge a comprehensive complaint with the Mineral Resources Department, over the publication of “lies” in the report.

Amex Resources’ general manager Alivereti Tuidravuni said the report was the work of the same non government organisation that published a YouTube video titled Heartless Mining in August of 2019.

“Amex will provide the same format of response to the recent report,” he said.

“But firstly, we will be lodging a formal complaint to Mineral Resources Department on the lies that the report carries.

“Once that’s done, we will provide the Fiji Sun with our response to the report.”

Minister for Mineral Resources Jone Usamate said a review of the mining act was in place, and a comprehensive statement would be issued.

“All mining activity that takes place in Fiji is in accordance with the Mining Act,” he said.

“As part of the process, consultations are always undertaken, and Environment issues addressed.

“This is normal practice.”

Amex Resources commenced dredging at the Ba River mouth in 2019, as the first black sand mining operation in Fiji.

Amex Resources special prospecting licence expires on October 1, 2022. It was first granted in 2009. Its mining licence ends in 2033.

Amex Resources’ special site rights ends on 2034.

The report claims 

A Zoom event on Wednesday marked the launch of the controversial report, and concluded with the consensus of participants for a broader based approach to match “the might” of mining authorities.

One speaker at the event, Roman Catholic Archbishop Peter Loy-Chong said: “They’re stealing our resources.”

The online consultations involved speakers from Australia and Fiji.

Archbishop Loy Chong called for resource mapping.

Another commentator claimed Fiji’s political environment had no room for redress, or freedom to collectively engage in mining discussions.

One resource owner alleged Fiji’s approach to mining was designed to suit the top-down set up.

According to the report, community members claimed they were only made aware of the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) in 2017.

Community members claimed they did not know that mining was to commence, and believed that agreement was for exploration only.

During the Zoom meeting, some villagers of Votua, Ba, claimed they could no longer access marine and freshwater food resources as much as they used to.

The report said other concerns included damage to mangroves, erosion, spills and contamination from the mining area, and mining of the village’s qoliqoli.

The claims of resource owners of Sigatoka echoed that of their counterparts in Ba, according to the report.

Zoom commentators claimed

Government did not come across clearly in its role as mediator.

Flooding had become a concern for Ba residents in areas that had no previous history of such events.

SunBiz was reliably informed that the Mineral Resources Department was not consulted for clarification prior to the publication of the report.

Organisers

Caritas Fiji is a humanitarian arm of the Catholic Church, a registered non-government organisation under the Charitable Act of Fiji.

Jubilee Australia Research Centre (JARC) engages in research and advocacy to promote what it calls economic justice for communities in the Asia-Pacific region and accountability for Australian corporations and government agencies operating there.

The centre said it was aware of Australia’s growing footprint in the Pacific, particularly in mining.

Mineral Resources Department’s acting director Raymond Mohammed had said a response was being prepared over the past two days.

Despite repeated requests via telephone calls, text messages and emails over the same period, the department’s response was not available when this edition went to press.

Feedback: frederica.elbourne@fijisun.com.fj



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