1. The Mining Act (Cap. 146) provides that the ownership of minerals is vested in the State. The administrative control over mineral resources is the responsibility of the Director of Mineral Development in his capacity as Director of Mines, subject to overall policy control by the Minister responsible for Mineral Resources who is the Minister for Lands, Mineral Resources and Energy.
2. The stated policy of the Government is to encourage, facilitate and control the exploration for and exploitation of Fijis mineral and related resources. The Mineral Resources Department, in administering and enforcing the relevant legislation, aims to ensure that those parties involved adhere to good practice in relation to safety and health of workers in related industries and in relation to the protection of the environment.
3. Whereas before the political changes of 1987 all royalties and dues from mineral production were payable and due to the State, Decree No. 12 of 1988 provided for those same royalties and dues to be due to the owners of the land from which the minerals were produced, subject to Cabinet having the right to deduct administrative costs and such proportion as it considered appropriate or necessary, for the Government. The new Constitution of Fiji which was promulgated in July 1990, incorporated the provisions of the decree with the words "any royalties or proceeds received by the State in respect of any minerals extracted from any land or from the sea bed over which there exists any registered customary fishing rights, shall from the date of the commencement of this Constitution become payable to the owners of the surface of that land or the beneficiary of the registered customary fishing rights as the case may be, subject to the right of the State to retain such proportion of any such royalties or proceeds as may be approved by the Cabinet from time to time," The amount of royalty payable as prescribed in the Mining Act remains unchanged.
4. The Quarries Act (Cap. 147) provides for the regulation of quarry workings by inspectors of mines appointed under the Mining Act. Clay, gravel, sand and stone or other common mineral substances are excluded from the definition "mineral" in the Mining Act and their ownership is not vested in the State, but attaches to the holding of the surface rights. The administrative control over quarry workings lies with the Minister responsible for Mineral Resources.
Land Ownership and Access to Minerals
5. About 80% of the land surface in Fiji is classed as Native Land, held and owned by the indigenous people. The remainder is made up of State owned or freehold land. The Native Lands are administered on behalf of the owners by the Native Lands Trust Board through powers conferred through the Native Land Trust Act (Cap 134). Administration of the State land (known as Crown Land) is carried out by the Director of Lands under the provisions of the Crown Lands Act (Cap 132). Crown Land, by definition, includes all land under the sea, the tidal foreshoe and such lower parts of rivers as are navigable by small craft. Administration of freehold land is provided for under the Land Transfer Act (Cap 131). Advice can be obtained from the Department of Mineral Resources concerning who should be considered to be the "landowner" insofar as any requirement for notification of intention to prospect, etc., is concerned.
6. The Mining Act provides for the State to retain right of access to all minerals and this right is granted to individuals through the issue of prospectors right or mining tenements, however, certain classes of land are closed to prospecting and in addition the Minister is empowered to close specific areas or prohibit or restrict prospecting for any mineral throughout the whole or any part of Fiji. Some of the lands so closed may be entered with the prior consent of the owner or occupier or controlling authority. Lands closed by the Minister are generally also available subject to special conditions imposed by the Minister.
7. The holder of a prospectors right or a mining tenement under the Mining Act must pay compensation or any damage done to improvements upon the land and for any permanent damage to the land surface. The Director may require a deposit or a bankers guarantee as a bond to be held against the holders compensation, performance or other commitments.
8. Fiscal requirements include payments of application fees, annual licence fees, annual lease rents and various other fees and mineral royalties which vary from 3% to 5% with the type of mineral. Provision is made in the Mining Act for royalty to be reduced or remitted by the Minister.
9. The right to carry out preliminary search for minerals is granted under a prospectors right. A prospectors right may only be granted to an individual, but such individual may be nominated as acting on behalf of a company or partnership.
10. Any person aged 21 years or older may obtain a prospectors right which is valid for one year. Successive rights may be obtained, but for continuity, application needs to be made at least 30 days prior to expiry of the previous right. Applications should be made to the Director in the prescribed form and accompanied by the prescribed fee (currently F$ 27.50 in December 1993).
11. Exclusive prospecting rights over a particular area may be granted to the holder of a prospectors right by the Director under prospecting licences (for areas up to 400 hectares) or, with the approval of the Minister, under special prospecting licences (for areas of 1300 hectares or more) under such conditions as the Minister may think fit. A person may hold any number of prospecting licences provided that their combined area does not exceed 1200 hectares.
12. Prior to applying for a prospecting licence or a special prospecting licence, the area must be marked out by the holder of a prospectors right. The method for marking out is prescribed in the Mining Act, but the Director may waive some or all of the requirements upon application under certain circumstances.
13. An application for a prospecting licence or special prospecting licence must be lodged with the Director in the prescribed form and must be accompanied by the prescribed fees and a plan of the area. An application for a special prospecting licence must also be accompanied by a proposed programme of prospecting for the period of the licence applied for and an estimate of the cost of carrying out the programme.
14. Prospecting licences may be issued or extended for periods of up to five years as the Director may determine, but one year is usual. The holder is entitled to an extension under terms similar to those prevailing for new licences provided that the Director is satisfied that all provisions of the Mining Act and conditions of the licence have been observed.
15. The holder of a prospectors right or prospecting licence may mark out an area and apply to the Director for a permit to mine. The maximum area which may be granted under a permit to mine is the same as for a mining lease. The duration of a permit to mine is two years and thereafter it may be extended for one year periods. If the Director determines that the mineral bearing qualities of the land warrant a lease, he may cancel the permit and require the holder to obtain a lease.
16. A mining lease may be granted to the holder of a prospectors right, a prospecting licence or a permit to mine, after he has marked out the desired area and submitted his application to the Director in the prescribed manner. There is no statutory requirement for discovery. The duration of a lease is not less than five years nor more than twenty one years. The maximum area for a lease for precious minerals is 40 hectares and for other minerals is 128 hectares, but with the approval of the Minister, special mining leases may be granted over larger areas. The Director may grant special mining leases under such conditions as the Minister may think fit.
17. Holders of the mining tenements may obtain access to other land for purposes necessary to the mining operations such as water rights, special site rights and road access licences.
18. Provision is made for the Director to rule in the event of disputes, but any person aggrieved by a decision of the Director may make resort to the Mining Appeals Board whose decisions can be referred to the Supreme Court.
The Mining Act
19. Copies of the Mining Act and any other Fiji legislation can be purchased from:
Prices (Fiji Dollars @ Aug 1997)