Four Solomon Islanders recently set out on a fact-finding mission to Papua New Guinea to learn from their experiences in mining. In Bougainville they discovered many believe that ‘real development’ does not come from mining but from hard work and control of their own natural resources.
By Stephen Suti Agalo and Patrick Pikacha
The Solomon Islands is blessed with rich natural resources in our forests, oceans and rocks. We know these resources are the key to unlocking the development potential of our islands and delivering essential services to our people.
But experiences from the past decades of logging have demonstrated that if we are not careful our resources can be exploited without any development to show for it.
The vast majority of landowners involved in logging for a short period lived in hotels and drove nice cars and boats.
Now they are back in a leaf house, paddling a canoe and struggling for school fees. Now our forests are all gone but where are the schools? Where are the hospitals? Where did the money go?
In Bougainville we observed the devastation left after mining led to a war that killed over 15,000 people.
However now the Bougainville economy is growing and the region is being developed not from mining but from agriculture.
The unique geology and volcanoes that makes Bougainville and the Solomons good for mining also makes the soil very fertile and ideal for agriculture.
Through hard work Bougainvilleans are earning money and developing their island from copra, rice, cocoa and vanilla.
Many people told us that with the agriculture and small scale panning of alluvial gold they now have more money available at the family level than they did when the multi-billion dollar copper mine was operating.
They explained to us that money gained from mining is whiteman money and only good for short term whiteman things like hotels and fancy food, but money we earn from sweat and agriculture is real money that leads to real development.
*Extracted from the article ‘Delegation returns from PNG with lessons on mining’, Solomon Star July 2, 2012. Full article here: http://ramumine.files.wordpress.com/2012/07/solomon-star-png-mining-article-mr.jpg