SUNBIZ

State Cautions Landowners Against ‘Eviction’ Efforts in Gold, Copper Exploration Project

The Mineral Resources Department (MRD) yesterday said it was legally impossible to evict Namosi Joint Venture because the operating licence was still valid. The resource owners could however register their objections when the licence expires on August 10, 2023, the department said.
31 Dec 2021 13:00
State Cautions Landowners Against ‘Eviction’ Efforts in Gold, Copper Exploration Project
Namosi Joint Venture Waisoi exploration camp in the Namosi Highlands.

Plans by a group of resource owners to evict operators of a gold and copper mineral exploration project may be in vain.

The Mineral Resources Department (MRD) yesterday said it was legally impossible to evict Namosi Joint Venture because the operating licence was still valid.

The resource owners could however register their objections when the licence expires on August 10, 2023, the department said.

 

Minister for Lands and Mineral Resources, Jone Usamate, said a press release would be issued.

The ministry said it had yet to receive formal objections against plans to renew Namosi Joint Venture’s operating licence.

The comments follow claims by some mataqali members of Nabukebuke in Namosi Village that they would explore legal avenues of eviction.

 

Ratu Suliano Matanitobua

Ratu Suliano Matanitobua.

Eviction Process
The eviction process is expected to be served by March, 2022, said mataqali Nabukebuke spokesman, Petero Saunivalu.

It is understood the mataqali is split into two factions – one for and the other against the project.

Those for the project are said to be led by Namosi high chief Ratu Suliano Matanitobua.

 

Ratu Suliano’s comments were sought yesterday, however SunBiz was informed that he was engaged in an urgent matter.

Meanwhile, Mr Saunivalu claims to represent more than 500 members of the mataqali.

“They could instead invest in eco-tourism development for Namosi,” he said.

 

He said no amount of money would compensate for the loss and displacement the actual mining would bring.

“It’s not worth it,” he said.

“We don’t want any money.”

 

“All the gold that’s buried there isn’t worth the risk.”

“Loss of a place is a loss of identity.”

“To continue would destroy our cultural heritage.”

Petero Saunivalu. Photo:  Frederica Elbourne.

Petero Saunivalu. Photo: Frederica Elbourne.

Landowners receive $31,000 quarterly as part of the rental for the project, according to the department.

Some members of the mataqali members who were registered in the Vola Ni Kawa Bula were expected to petition the eviction of Namosi Joint Venture from their land, Mr Saunivalu said.

He said he visited Namosi Joint Venture project site on December 10, 2021, to ask the operators to vacate.

 

“We want the developers out,” Mr Saunivalu said.

“We refused to sign any agreement with them.”

“We want them to take all their machines and move out.”

 

“We will seek other avenues if the eviction does not work.”

The iTaukei Land Trust Board, custodians of the land, did not respond to queries when this edition went to press.

 

 

Namosi Joint Venture
Namosi Joint Venture country head Netava Bakaniceva confirmed speaking with a few disgruntled mataqali members in recent weeks.

“I told them to serve the eviction notice to the Mineral Resources Department,” he said.

“We operate under the authority of the Mineral Resources Department.”

 

Namosi Joint Venture operates under a special prospecting licence, as opposed to a surface lease.

Mineral rights belong to the State, and as such, landowners need only be informed of mineral exploration developments.

Landowner approval is not necessitated for the project to proceed.

 

Jone Usamate - Minister for Infrastructure, Meteorological Services, Lands and Mineral Resources. Source: File

Jone Usamate – Minister for Infrastructure, Meteorological Services, Lands and Mineral Resources. Source: File

Under the Bainimarama Government the Fair Share Mineral Royalties Act 2018 was gazetted.

The objective of the Act is to give to effect to section 30 of the 2013 Constitution and to establish the process for the fair sharing of royalties for the extraction of minerals.

Under the Act, 20 per cent of the royalty goes to State and the remaining 80 per cent to the landowner.

 

Copper and gold exploration exercises continue in Namosi under the supervision and management of Newcrest. Namosi Joint Venture includes Newcrest (Fiji) Ltd, Mitsubishi Materials Corporation, and Nittetsu Mining Co. Ltd.

Australian company Newcrest is the largest gold and copper mining company in Pacific region.

 

Feedback: frederica.elbourne@fijisun.com.fj



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