Suva, Fiji and Sydney, Australia. Today three community development and human rights groups, Jubilee Australia Research Centre, Fiji Council for Social Services and Caritas Fiji, released a new report raising the alarm about Australian companies engaging in black sand mining in Fiji.
The report, A Line in the Sand, looks at the Ba Ironsands Project operated by Australian company Amex Resources Limited, and the proposed Sigatoka Ironsands Project, operated by Magma Mines Ltd, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Australian company Dome Gold Mines Limited. The report finds that the projects lack a social licence to operate and raise serious environmental questions and concerns.
The report calls on the companies to halt any further development of the black sand mining operations at Ba and Sigatoka until each community has been fully informed about the project, including potential environmental impacts, and has given Free, Prior and Informed Consent. It also calls for new robust assessment of current and potential environmental impacts in both projects.
The three organisations are also calling for any future proposed black sand mining project in Fiji to be subject to stringent environmental assessment, mitigation and monitoring and not proceed without the Free, Prior and Informed Consent of all affected communities.
Fijian Human, Environmental and Indigenous Rights Defender, Tevita Naikasowalu, said: “For us as Indigenous Fijians, wealth is relationship and sharing. It is about the common good of everyone from our ancestors to our generations to come. Our duty now is to protect and preserve what we have so that we can still have a future. Both projects in Ba and Sigatoka are proposed to run for more than ten years – I am worried about what ten years of disturbing our fragile ecosystems will mean for the next generation”
Luke Fletcher, Executive Director of Jubilee Australia Research Centre said: “Indigenous communities have the right to give Free, Prior and Informed Consent to development that affects the land and natural resources they depend upon. Whether in the development or operational phase, these projects must be halted until we have established whether community consent has been given.”
Vani Catanasiga, Executive Director of Fiji Council of Social Services said: “Communities in Fiji rely on their natural resources for disaster resilience. Recent flooding and cyclones have highlighted how vital the gardens, reefs and fishing grounds are to our survival. Despite this, again and again we see projects approved that threaten these vital resources without the Free, Prior and Informed Consent of the community. This must stop if communities are to build their resilience to climate change and disasters.”
Kositatino Tikomaibolatagane, Coordinator, Social, Ecological and Justice Programme at Caritas Fiji said: “The environmental impacts of black sand mining in Fiji are not yet well understood. But experience from similar projects overseas suggests we should be very cautious before allowing this kind of extraction on our land or in our waterways. It is vital that communities are fully informed about the potential environmental risks of any mining project before the project goes ahead.”
DOWNLOAD THE REPORT
Download the report at: https://www.jubileeaustralia.org/resources/publications/line-sand-2021
Fyfe Strachan, Research Director, Jubilee Australia
Tevita Naikasowalu, Fijian Environment and Human Rights Defender
Vani Catanasiga, Executive Director, Fiji Council of Social Services
Kositatino Tikomaibolatagane, Coordinator, Social, Ecological and Justice Programme, Caritas Fiji
In Ba Province, on the north-west coast of Viti Levu, Australian company Amex Resources Limited is dredging for magnetite at the mouth of the Ba River. This is the first black sand mining operation to commence in Fiji. Community members have said that there was a lack of meaningful community consultation before the project started, and that they have been left in the dark about potential environmental consequences. While the project is at an early stage, it comes with significant potential environmental risks and residents of villages surrounding the project are already reporting some early signs of environmental damage.
On the south coast of Viti Levu, the Sigatoka River is also under threat from a black sand mining proposal by Magma Mines Ltd, a Fijian subsidiary of the Australian mining company Dome Gold Mines Limited. The proposal is located near the Sigatoka Sand Dunes, which have been tentatively listed for World Heritage Status. At the date of publication, the project is in its exploration phase, with sonic drilling in 2017 confirming the existence of iron sand deposits. While an EIA was conducted in 2014, the company’s plans appear to have evolved with the discovery of new mineral deposits in the area, leaving many environmental questions unanswered. Communities within and nearby the exploration area have voiced their strong opposition to the project, raising concerns about the impacts on their livelihoods, their environment, and on future generations.