Landowners Demand Fair Share in Mineral Resource Development

The Government faces significant challenges if it aims to meet the demands of various landowning communities in the development of mineral resources.

In recent days, landowners from Navuniivi, Ra, and Namosi have presented their demands to the Government regarding mineral resource development. Navuniivi landowners have expressed strong opposition to ongoing publications of their land for mineral exploration. Meanwhile, Namosi landowners, amidst ongoing copper exploration, are insisting on having a 50 percent say in the province’s mineral development activities.

In Votua Village, Ba, where iron ore extraction is underway, landowning units are demanding 100 percent of the royalty shares. They argue that they bear the brunt of the negative impacts caused by these projects. Alternatively, they suggest that the Government could reduce its share of royalties to increase the share for landowning units. Amex Resources Limited, granted a 21-year mining lease in 2012 for extracting iron sands from the Ba River delta—land owned by the vanua o Votua—faces calls from the villagers for a royalty increase from 80 percent to 90 percent, thereby reducing the government’s share from 20 percent to 10 percent.

Votua landowning units suggest the Government could find other incentives from mining companies through application fees for obtaining licences and permits.

In addition to financial demands, Votua villagers have specified that developers in the mineral resource sector must collaborate with the Government to train villagers in relevant trades. This condition is part of the deal for allowing mineral resource development on their land. The landowners also seek government recognition of their investment plans in mineral resources development. They have requested that notices for licence renewals be printed in larger fonts to improve readability and awareness.

Regarding royalties, landowners have raised concerns about a lack of clear calculation methods and specific guidelines. The Fair Share of Mineral Royalties Act 2018 mandates that 20 percent of royalties go to the Government and 80 percent to the landowners. However, landowners have pointed out issues with the fair distribution of these royalties among villagers, noting that they have not received the full benefits over the 12-year operation of the licence.

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