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(Sep 13, 2011) The Solomon Islands Minister of Finance and the Treasury, Gordon Darcy Lilo, announced that the government had endorsed the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) at a regional conference held in Dili, Timor-Leste, from August 25-27, 2011. (Solomon Islands Endorses EITI, SOLOMON TIMES ONLINE (Aug. 29, 2011).) The EITI "sets a global standard for transparency in oil, gas and mining." In particular, it "supports improved governance in resource-rich countries through the verification and full publication of company payments and government revenues from oil, gas and mining." (What Is the EITI, EITI website (last visited Sept. 12, 2011).) The EITI was first announced by then British Prime Minister Tony Blair at the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg in 2002 and has since been adopted by 58 countries. (SOLOMON TIMES ONLINE, supra; for a list of compliant and candidate countries, see EITI Countries, EITI website (last visited Sept. 12, 2011).)

To become an EITI candidate, a country must meet five "sign up" requirements, including the development of a work plan. Implementation then involves "a range of activities to strengthen resource revenue transparency." (Country Implementation, EITI website (last visited Sept. 12, 2011).) A country must complete an EITI validation within two and a half years of becoming a Candidate Country. The EITI Board reviews the country's Validation Reports and determines whether it has met the requirements to achieve EITI-compliant status. (Id.) The first reports by Solomon Islands in relation to adopting the EITI are expected to be submitted in 2012. (Solomons Steps Up Mining Transparency, RADIO AUSTRALIA NEWS (Sept. 1, 2011).)

Revenue Watch Institute, a nongovernmental organization that promotes transparency and accountability in the management of oil, gas, and mineral resources, had been calling on Solomon Islands to join the initiative. Its Executive Director stated that doing so would improve community understanding of mining company activities and would put these companies and the government's use of the money gained under greater scrutiny: "[i]t is a device to try and counteract those [corrupt] tendencies and to force transparency on all sides so that citizens themselves can be in charge and can see what is happening in these very important sectors." (Id.)

Background

Solomon Islands was embroiled in conflict from the late 1990s until 2003, when the government sought international assistance. An international peacekeeping force was subsequently established that now involves police, military, and civilian personnel from Australia, New Zealand, and 13 other countries from the Pacific Region. Known as the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (RAMSI), this regional organization continues to work in partnership with the Solomon Islands government to ensure the safety and security of the country, repair and reform the machinery of government and the delivery of services, improve governance and government financial systems, and help rebuild the economy. (What Is RAMSI, Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands website (last visited Sept. 12, 2011).) In 2010, a Truth and Reconciliation Commission commenced hearings. (Kelly Buchanan, Solomon Islands: Truth and Reconciliation Commission to Commence Hearings, GLOBAL LEGAL MONITOR (Mar. 10, 2010).)

The Solomon Islands conflict arose from issues relating to access to land and other resources, as well as to jobs and political power. In announcing the endorsement of EITI, Lilo said that the country is "determined to use its mineral resources to improve the well being of its citizens rather than to allow the resources to become a source of future conflict." (SOLOMON TIMES ONLINE, supra.)

The Prime Minister of Solomon Islands has stated that he is committed to attracting international mining companies to the country. However, concerns about security and governance issues, including corruption, have been suggested as reasons for the lack of investment in the mining sector to date. (James Regan, Solomons' Gold Mine Set to Reshape South Pacific Nation, REUTERS (Apr. 29, 2011).) Earlier this year, the country's only gold mine reopened. However, residents in the area recently blocked the mine's access road, claiming that activities at the mine have contaminated a river, and demanded cash payments. The Australian company that owns the mine rejected the claims but is offering to invest in vital infrastructure work, including a water and sanitation project. (Solomon Islands Mining Company Offers Water Project After Blockade, RADIO NEW ZEALAND INTERNATIONAL (Sept. 2, 2011).) In April 2011, a prospecting license granted to a small Australian mining company was disputed by the Solomon Islands government, following the firing of the government minister who had approved the license. (Sean Dorney, Solomons Dispute Australian Mining Licence, AUSTRALIA NETWORK NEWS (Apr. 26, 2011).)

Author: Kelly Buchanan More by this author
Topic: Mineral resources and mines More on this topic
Jurisdiction: Solomon Islands More about this jurisdiction

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Last updated: 09/13/2011