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Lands minister responds to Nadi mining queries

The Minister for Lands and Mineral Resources, Hon. Mereseini Vuniwaqa was today asked to explain the benefits to landowners in Tuvatu, Sabeto. Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama had visited the Tuvatu Gold Project last month to commemorate the grant of the Tuvatu mining lease granted to Canadian mining company Lion One Metals. Hon. Viliame Gavoka asked […]

Peni Shute

February 10, 2016 1:48 pm

The Minister for Lands and Mineral Resources, Hon. Mereseini Vuniwaqa was today asked to explain the benefits to landowners in Tuvatu, Sabeto.

Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama had visited the Tuvatu Gold Project last month to commemorate the grant of the Tuvatu mining lease granted to Canadian mining company Lion One Metals.

Hon. Viliame Gavoka asked the Minister for Lands and Mineral Resources to explain the advantages of the mining lease that Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama issued earlier this month.

Can the Minister explain what benefits the landowners of Tuvatu in the hills of Sabeto would obtain as a result of the mining license issued by the Prime Minister last?

Minister Vuniwaqa told parliament that iTaukei Land Trust Board (TLTB) had issued a 21-year surface lease and government also granted a 10-year mining lease.

For Tuvatu the TLTB had issued a 21-year surface lease and government, has issued a 10-year mining lease for Tuvatu operations. These leases were issued after the carrying out of due diligence by both authorities. In terms of for example technical expertise, financial capability, landowner interests and of the course the environment sustainability of the project.

Response by the Minister for Lands and Mineral Resources, Hon. Mereseini Vuniwaqa. PHOTO: www.youtube.com
Response by the Minister for Lands and Mineral Resources, Hon. Mereseini Vuniwaqa. Photo YouTube.

Minister Vuniwaqa told parliament that all these factors were done to ensure the interest of not only the investors but also the landowners were protected.

The surface lease premium payable for Tuvatu is $1million dollars, that will be paid into two bunches, $700 thousand upon the grant of the surface lease which has already been granted and $300 thousand upon the first gold production.

There is a surface fees rent of $30 thousand per annum for a period of 21 years as earlier indicated.

A sum of $10 thousand dollars per annum will also be paid by the company for Yavusa Rararaqa, Mataqali Nabouwalu, and Korobebe Village, this is for the education of the landowners and their children. The company will also pay $10 thousand annually as community development assistance to both Korobebe and Nagado villagers.

Minister Vuniwaqa said the company would also use its best endeavours to promote training of members of the land owning unit, who are currently employed in all aspects of mining operations.

Madam Speaker, just an indication so far for the last 9 years of exploration work in Tuvatu. The work was conducted by people from the local area they’ve showcased their tremendous capability of hardworking Fijians.

Local residents make up of about 95% of the workforce this includes critical positions such as managers, geologists, engineers, technical and mechanical staff as well as wage earners, under the terms of this lease, these arrangements will continue.

Minister Vuniwaqa said there was also money that wouls be paid to landowners for the disturbance of plants that is in the area that is being leased.

The company will also offer commercial opportunities to land owning units in terms of services needed by the company, for example in relation to food supply and maybe transportation and other services.

Assistant Minister for Local Government, Housing and Environment Hon. Lorna Erden asked a supplementary question to the lands minister for her to explain to parliament the rationale behind issuing the 21-year lease when the mining lease is only for ten years.

Minister Vuniwaqa said:

Thank you Madam Speaker, the surface lease is for 21 years, the mining lease is for 10 years. The grant for the mining lease is determined by the mineral content in the land of the due diligence of the mineral resources department with their wisdom has decided that the mineral content of Tuvatu right now warrants a 10-year mining lease for extraction. But having a longer surface lease will ensure that there is flexibility, should the company later find out that there are more minerals after the first extraction is done.

Opposition MP Hon. Ro Kiniviliame Kiliraki asked the Land Minister if she could explain the rehabilitation programme to return the part of the land to its original position after extractions.

Thank You Madam Speaker, I had stated very briefly that one of the factors that the mineral resources department looks before the grant of the mining lease is the environment sustainability of the project that requires the submissions of environmental impact assessments and continuous monitoring by the mineral resources department, the mining lease would contain the environmental obligation that the company will have over this project.

As well as a bond, an environmental bond to ensure that whatever damage that maybe left by the company afterwards can be rehabilitated through the provisions of the grant.

Vuniwaqa said for the last 6 to 7 months the mineral development technical committee has had internal consultations with the people of Tuvatu putting together a formula that is required under section 30 of the constitution. The committee is currently compiling a report which will be taken for public consultations before a method is set after cabinet approval.

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