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THERE are fears that the ongoing mining operations at West Rennell will enter the country’s only World Heritage Site Lake Tegano at Eastern tip of the Polynesian atoll.

But Bintan Mining Company (BMC) Rennell Operations Manager Allen Hu states it clearly that they respect the conservation program and will not dare enter any agreement with resource owners of East Rennell.

During discussions with a visiting team from United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and Government officers from Environment and Education Division at West Rennell last week, Mr Hu admitted that they do receive development consent from few land owners within UNESCO enlisted area but decide not to venture nor mine it.

“We recognised the role of conservation area and its universal importance throughout the world.

“Mining operations does not propose to accept any consent or request from the resource owners.

“We will live not operate in close proximity to that area and always stay out and follow government regulations,” he said.

He revealed that their 25 years lease only applies to bauxite deposit areas on West Rennell since its inception in 2014.

“It is not in our company’s plans to extend it to the boundary or the enlisted site but deposits at Western tip of the island,” he said adding that they are supportive of Lake Tegano conservation status.

Mr Hu however identifies the need for government to make a clear coordinated physical line of the site’s buffer zone boundary so that it acts as a compass to fend off ongoing operations.

East Rennell under customary land ownership was enlisted World Heritage Natural Site in 1998.

After a decade of logging activities at the Western parts of the island saw UNESCO based on IUCN’s report listed it under “in danger” list in 2013.

Now that mining and the oil spillage effects on the marine environment, it further puts the site on the edge, which is only 12 kilometres from the destructive operations.

There are initiatives and action plans that have been undertaken by the previous government to remove it from the “in danger” list and to develop it as a national asset.

One successive directive has been that of the Commissioner and Minister of Forestry Division to revoke and refuse granting license within all areas at East Rennell.

Some remarkable directive is for the Ministry of Culture and Tourism to revive its development assistance to East Rennell through an inclusive sustainable community-integrated program, for the Ministry of Infrastructure and Development to provide technical support on road and air strip improvement and to register the site as protected area.

To date, the people of Tegano have registered their frustrations over the lack of support from the government towards the program.

The current Democratic Coalition Government for Advancement will have to prioritize Tegano people and showed a renewed commitment to protect and develop the site or else the country will lose its only UNESCO enlisted site just like Marovo Lagoon.

Source: Government Communication Unit

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Lynda Wate
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