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In addition to its information services, the
Mineral Resources Department (MRD) has responsibility for handling licence applications.
Its staff can assist with enquiries regarding this process, the rights and obligations
involved at each stage, and the information that is required for applications to be
The mining industry in Fiji is
controlled by the terms of the Mining Act, which was placed on the statute book in 1978.
Revisions to the enabling Regulations were made in 1985, and the MRD is currently in the
process of preparing further revisions to the Regulations.
||Drilling at Emperor's
Matanagata gold prospect, where
individual assays reported a high of 117 g/t Au over 0.39 m
Fiji's mineral resources are owned by
the State. Using the principle of acting as a steward for the Fijian people in this area,
the government has emplaced regulatory mechanisms designed to ensure that mineral
development is carried out in an environmentally sensitive and socially acceptable way,
with an equitable sharing of both the benefits and costs of mining between all
Companies undertaking mineral
development projects are encouraged to develop a participatory and collaborative approach
with local residents, whose direct involvement - be it in the form of small business
opportunities or social infrastructure development, for example - should be an integral
part of any project.
In contrast to other countries in the
region, land ownership in Fiji is clearly established, and there is an effective land
management and administration system in place. In the past, land issues in the western
Pacific have proved to be an insurmountable hurdle to mineral development. This is not the
case in Fiji, where land is divided into three categories: Native Land, State Land and
||Fiji has a clear
policy on land ownership, with a government
agency appointed to handle land issues
on behalf of Fijian owners
Native Land, owned by indigenous
Fijians, makes up by far the major holding (83%). Although it cannot be sold, individual
areas can be leased with the consent of their owners. Such leases may in turn be sold,
transferred or varied with the consent of the Native Lands Trust Board, which manages and
administers this type of land on behalf of its owners. A further 7% of the country is
State Land, while Freehold Land makes up the remaining 10%.
In common with many other countries,
Fiji's mineral licensing policy differentiates between the exploration and production
stages of a project. A Prospector's Right allows the holder to prospect for all minerals
on any land open for prospecting for one year. Prospecting Licences and Special
Prospecting Licences, valid for one to five years, allow the holder to prospect for
specified minerals. Prospecting Licences cover areas of up to 400 ha; areas greater than
1,300 ha are covered by Special Prospecting Licences, the terms and conditions relating to
which are open to negotiation.
Special rules apply to licences covering
'mature areas', where extensive work has been carried out before or where a well-know
geological target is the subject of interest. In this case, the initial Prospecting
Licence can be granted for two-to-three years, conditional on the company's ability to
progress the project through to the development stage.
Licence holders who comply with specific
exploration work and reporting commitments are guaranteed continuity of title, implying a
right to proceed to project development. Some land relinquishment is also expected over
time. Prospecting Licences can be renewed, normally in one-year increments and subject to
increased expenditure commitments.
||Fiji has a
as a vibrant tourist destination
Mining can be undertaken under the terms
of a two-year Permit to Mine, which can also be extended in one-year increments. This can
be substituted by a Mining Lease if an area can be shown to have long-term mining
potential. While in both cases the area covered cannot normally exceed 40 ha for precious
metals or 128 ha for other minerals, larger areas may be negotiated.
However, progression from prospecting to
mining normally follows the issuance of a Mining Lease, which is dependent on the
completion of a feasibility study that demonstrates the commercial viability of a project.
A development agreement must also be in place, outlining the broad principles,
responsibilities and obligations of all the parties to the development. This agreement is
normally prepared through consultation between the licence holder, the government and
representatives of the people of the development region. A Mining Lease is granted for a
minimum of five years and a maximum of 21 years.
All Prospecting Licences, Permits to
Mine and Mining Leases are subject to established reporting requirements. Once prospecting
or mining rights have been abandoned or relinquished, the data (and drill cores, where
appropriate) from the area become Government property and are then publicly available from
the MRD. Data regarding areas currently under licence are confidential to the MRD.
benefits from its compact size and long-established minerals administration system, which
has allowed the compilation of a comprehensive mineral information resource. This contains
a complete set of geological records and exploration data that have been gathered between
the late 1800s and the present.
All exploration and mining companies
must submit their Fijian data to the MRD upon termination, surrender or part-surrender of
a licence or lease. All relevant reports are placed on open file in the MRD's library,
which also contains publicly accessible mining company open-file reports. The Department
is currently in the process of digitising these data.
Most areas of Fiji have been
geologically mapped at a scale of 1:50,000, with some areas, notably the Lau group of
islands and Rotuma, having been map-ped in greater detail. All geological maps are on open
file for ready access.
In addition, MRD publications cover a
wide range of topics relating to Fiji's mineral prospectivity. The department publishes
its quarterly Exploration & Mineral Digest and an annual review of exploration
and mining activity. In 1995, it published the most recent edition of the definitive Metallic
Mineral Deposits of Fiji, a 200-page, copiously illustrated geological review of the
country's metallic mineral deposits and occurrences.
Other MRD information sources include
bibliographies of Fiji's geology and company reports held on open file, and there is a
database catalogue of information on geophysical surveys and mine tenements. Data already
available from side-looking airborne radar and gravity surveys will be complemented by the
results from a recently flown aeromagnetics programme, due for release by mid-1998. The
survey, carried out by the Australian Geological Survey Org-anisation in mid-1997,
involved 160,000 line-kilometres of flying over the larger islands and the more
prospective offshore sedimentary basins.
Publications aimed at enhancing
in-vestor interest in Fijian minerals include the booklets Fiji's Mineral Policy, Share
in the Mineral Wealth of Fiji, and The Petroleum Potential of Fiji, Southwest
Pacific, all of which can be obtained from the MRD.
© Mining Journal 1998
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