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Landowners claim they signed on blank paper says Minister

February 20, 2020 4:55 pm
Lands Minister Ashneel Sudhakar

Lands Minister Ashneel Sudhakar has today claimed that some landowners from Sigatoka have claimed they were told to sign on blank papers, which was added to the petition by some.

This follows claims made in a petition by SODELPA MP, Viliame Gavoka, earlier this week, which called for a holistic review by the Standing Committee on Natural Resources on the proposed mining project at the Sigatoka River.

This was rejected by the Speaker of Parliament, Ratu Epeli Nailatikau, which led to Opposition MPs staying away from Parliament for two days.

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Sudhakar says the recent petition and pictures being circulated was sending out a wrong message.

The Minister also revealing issues raised by some of the landowners regarding the petition.

“We have received some calls in the office by some landowners, they are saying that they were asked to sign on a blank paper. I am trying to get some written confirmation on that as well. They never knew it was about this one. They were told it was about some dredging activity. They signed on a blank paper and it was out in the petition that is what they are telling us.”

Sudhakar says that no mining license has been given to Magma Mines to undertake any work at the mouth of the Sigatoka River.

“Magama Mines have got an exploration license and that is what they are doing and every three months, every quarter our teams are going out, the environment team, the Ministry of Environment, we are going out checking everything. So there is no question of any disturbance. The pictures they are circulating and the petition they are running is based on old pictures. It might be in the same area, but has nothing to do with this mining activity.”

He adds that a full environmental study has been undertaken.

“Ministry of Environment conducted its own EIA. The company’s consultants have done the EMP, Environment Management Plan, which is submitted to us. In addition to this, they have deposited some money with us, as compensation as if there are any damages done, there will be compensation paid.  But at this point in time, we have not had any reports of any damages to this site.”

He also told FBC News that only time a license will be granted is if 60 percent of the landowners agreed.

We are trying to get a comment from the Opposition the claims.

Meanwhile, the Prime Minister, Voreqe Bainimarama, has also been briefed on the Sigatoka dredging matter, which is now being used to push the current petition.

In the brief, it says the Sigatoka River dredging project was planned under Land & Water Resource Management Division then under Ministry of Agriculture in 2016-2018.

The dredging was totally for flood mitigation purposes to protect and safeguard communities from risks of flooding and protect the valley vegetable farmers known as ‘Salad bowl of Fiji” from risks of flooding and surrounding communities, villages and town.

It has also been revealed that after the regulatory requirements were met like, EIA approval from Department of Environment, Waiver of Fishing Rights, Director of Lands approval and approval from landowners for use of land to dump dredged material.

The PM has also been told that dredged materials were dumped on the approved dumpsites through EIA process and upon mataqali giving consent to dump on their land

Bainimarama has been told that due to the sand materials, the existing greens have died and will naturally rejuvenate its greens over a lapse of time and this was the same practice and have rejuvenated greens for Rewa, Navua River, Nadi, Labasa and Ba River dredging projects.

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