Landowners Challenge Government Over Mineral Resource Development

The Government faces a significant challenge if the demands of landowning units in mineral resource development are considered.

Recently, landowners from Navuniivi, Ra, and Namosi have expressed their demands regarding mineral resources development to the Government.

Navuniivi landowners are protesting the continued listing of their land for mineral exploration.

In Namosi, where copper exploration continues, landowners are seeking a 50 percent stake in mineral development activities within the province.

At Votua Village, Ba, where iron ore is being extracted, landowning units are demanding 100 percent royalty shares, arguing they are the ones dealing with the negative impacts of the projects.

Alternatively, Votua villagers have said the Government can reduce its share of royalties to increase the percentage granted to landowning units.

Amex Resources Limited received a 21-year mining lease in 2012 to extract iron sands from the Ba River delta, owned by the vanua o Votua.

In their submission on the Mineral Exploitation and Exploration Bill, the villagers of Ba have requested an increase in royalty from 80 percent to 90 percent, reducing the government’s share from 20 percent to 10 percent.

“The Government can always find other incentives from mining companies given the application fee set by the department to obtain licences and permits,” Votua landowning units stated.

Detailing further, Votua villagers said that developers in the mineral resource sector must collaborate with the Government to provide vocational training to villagers as part of any development deal on their land.

Landowners also want the Government to recognize their investment plans concerning mineral resources development.

“The notice of renewal of license must be enlarged into a bigger font to enable readers to understand and to be aware of any current situation,” Votua villagers suggested.

There are no clear indications of royalty calculation and specific guidelines.

The Fair Share of Mineral Royalties Act 2018 stipulates that “any royalty must be distributed with 20 percent going to the government and 80 percent to the owner.”

“The landowners have raised the issue of unfair issuance on the distribution of royalties among the villagers,” their submission stated. “For a period of 12 years during the operation of the license, they have not received the full benefit.”

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