Solomon Islands is a country that is heavily reliant on the extraction of its natural resources as a means of financing its economic growth aspirations.
Previously, this was done through activities such as logging and large scale plantations. However, more recently, mineral extraction through mining activities such as the one at Gold Ridge Mine and the extraction of other mineral resources have also been explored and engaged in as a means generating income for the country.
This move towards the extractive industries (oil, gas and mineral extraction) has had its benefits financially and created significant job and socio-economic benefits for a lot of Solomon Islanders.
However, there are some inherent risks as well. These include volatile economic growth; limited job creation; violent conflicts; corruption; environmental degradation; gender based violence; and the risk of spread of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) among communities impacted by extraction activities. Such negative outcomes of resource extraction, however, are not inevitable. They can be tackled through effective strategies, legal frameworks and policies.
Participation of civil society, women’s organisations, indigenous peoples and other affected groups in the decision-making processes to ensure effective governance of the extractive sector is also important.
At the Government level, the Ministry of Environment, through the Environment and Conservation Division (ECD) is one of the ministries responsible for safeguarding Solomon Islanders against the negative impacts that may be brought about by extractive industries operating in the country.
Although licensing of these industries is handled through the Ministry of Mines, the necessary assessments to ensure that consent is given to these industries after due consideration of its impacts to the environment, is handled through the ECD within the Ministry of Environment (MECDM).
The Protected Areas Act 2010 and the Protected Areas Regulations 2012 also touch on the extractive industries in the sense that it restricts such activities in areas that are designated as having a protected area status under the Act.
The Division's work in this area in the Solomon Islands is supported by the work of other entities and initiatives such as the Solomon Islands Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (SIETI).