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Baseline Assessment of Development Minerals in Fiji

This Baseline Assessment of Development Minerals is a timely study for Fiji. Development Minerals play an oversized role in Fiji’s domestic development, especially in the areas of infrastructure, housing construction, road building, agriculture and disaster reconstruction, as well as supporting a large number of Fijian small and medium-sized domestic enterprises. At the same time, the study has highlighted important issues adversely impacting the current social, economic, and environmental conditions of Fiji, which if not rectified, have the potential to manifest further and significantly obstruct development in Fiji.

The mining and quarrying of Development Minerals in Fiji is dominated by crushed aggregate, gravel and sand, used for construction materials, and to a lesser extent limestone, used for agricultural purposes. There are indications that the demand for Development Minerals will significantly increase in Fiji. A gargantuan quantity of construction materials are required to construct the infrastructure proposed in the Government of Fiji’s ‘5 Year National Development Plan’, and Development Minerals have an important role to play in achieving all 17 of the
‘Sustainable Development Goals’. However, globally the Development Minerals sector has been neglected, and this is also the case in Fiji.

This study is the first comprehensive assessment of Development Minerals in Fiji. The study has identified 86 regulated extraction sites; of which 76% are located in Fiji’s Rivers. In 2017, the total estimated Development Mineral production from regulated sites was 3,584,400 m3, which is equivalent to excavation of an area approximately 10m deep over five times the footprint of Suva’s Albert Park. This figure is approximately 8 times higher than the total reported official production of hard rock quarry, soft rock quarry and river gravel extraction in Fiji. The study also reveals that the value of the sector is up to seven times larger than previously reported. The corresponding Gross Output estimate for 2017 is between FJ$190.3M and FJ$369.1M, which is substantially higher than latest official Fiji Bureau of Statistics Gross Output record of FJ$53.0M. Additionally, government records indicate average royalty payments of FJ$1.9M per annum in recent years, this is 81% lower than the anticipated annual royalty estimate of FJ$10.2M (based on the 2017 production estimate). It appears, therefore that significant gaps exist in the accounting of the sector and the potential revenues for the Fiji Government and Fijian communities.

The Development Minerals sector is overwhelmingly dominated by domestic small and mediumsized enterprises with 95% of surveyed companies involved in the sector majority Fiji owned (ranging from two to two-hundred and fifty employees). The study estimates that 2325 Fijians are directly employed in the regulated part of the sector of Viti Levu and Vanua Levu, with a stark minority female staff (4%). In comparison the formal quarry sector of Jamaica employs 12% women, while the predominantly informal artisanal and small-scale mining of Development Minerals in Uganda (44%), Zambia (41%), Guinea (41%) and Cameroon (18%) employ significantly higher percentages of women. This finding highlights the crucial importance of opening up pathways and opportunities for woman to contribute to the sector. The employment figures reported above do not include employees involved in sector support services (such as transportation companies, mechanics, lawyers, surveyors, explosives dealers, equipment dealers, environmental consultants, geologists, drilling companies and electricians), civil servants involved in the administration of the sector, nor those involved in the downstream use of Development Minerals (such as construction companies and sugar cane farmers). Due to the fact that the commodities produced in the Development Minerals sector are at the foundation of many key sectors in Fiji, including construction, infrastructure, and agriculture, to name a few, the number of employees is significantly larger. The employment numbers reported here indicate that the Development Minerals sector is 50% larger than the large-scale metal mining sector in Fiji.

The study has identified significant and acute negative social and environmental impacts associated with river gravel extraction of Fiji’s perennial rivers, supporting the Fiji Governments decision to phase out river gravel extraction and establish a network of hard rock quarries in strategic locations. Fijian communities depend on rivers for services including drinking water, food (e.g. Qoliqoli’s), washing, transportation, tourism, and agricultural irrigation. Inspections of 48 extraction sites and interviews with over 100 community members conducted as part of the study demonstrate that river extraction in Fiji is inhibiting the critical function of a number of important river systems. Conversely the environmental impact of hard rock quarries was found to be moderate, with greater potential for effective rehabilitation. Examples of rehabilitation of hard rock quarries in Fiji include Vuda Marina and the Colo-i-Suva Rainforest Eco-resort. The study also finds that hard rock quarries have the potential to produce more consistent, high-quality material, with the potential to improve the quality of construction and the durability of roads in Fiji.