Fiji is renowned for the natural beauty of its oceans and beaches. But in recent years, beaches and the surrounding waters on Fiji’s largest island, Viti Levu, have attracted attention from Australian mining companies for the minerals contained within their black sand.
Black sand mining involves extracting iron ore from magnetic sands. It often involves extensive dredging of the sea or river floor and can result in serious environmental impacts, including the destruction of habitats for crustaceans, snails and corals, erosion and land subsidence, damages to mangroves and reduction of fish stocks. With Fiji still reeling from the devastation caused by Tropical Cyclone Yasa in December 2020, preserving natural resources for community resilience has never been more important.
Jubilee Australia is working with local human rights defenders, the Fiji Council of Social Services and Caritas Fiji to investigate Australian companies' involvement in two black sand mining projects in Fiji. Our 2021 report, A Line In the Sand, found that both projects lack a social licence to operate and raises serious environmental questions and concerns.
TWO PROJECTS, NO SOCIAL LICENSE
BA IRONSANDS PROJECT
Australian company Amex Resources Ltd began dredging for magnetite at the mouth of the Ba River in 2019. This is Fiji’s first black sand mining operation. Community members have said that there was no meaningful community consultation before the project started, and that they were in the dark about potential environmental risks. Seeing changes in their environment, community members are increasingly worried about what this project means for their livelihoods and the health of the river.
SIGATOKA IRONSANDS PROJECT
At the mouth of the Sigatoka River, the gateway to Fiji’s Coral Coast, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Australian company Dome Gold Mines Ltd is proposing to mine black sand. The mining activities are proposed to occur on the riverbed and on an island that the community currently uses to grow food. Nearby communities have strongly opposed the project, raising concerns about the impacts on their livelihoods, their environment and future generations.
“For us as Indigenous Fijians, wealth is relationship and sharing. It is about the common good of everyone from our ancestors to our generation to come. Our duty now is to protect and preserve what we have so that we can still have a future. That is why everything about us is united with our Land and the Sea. We call it the Vanua. It is our Identity, our responsibility, our heritage, our pride and our life itself. Everything about us is in it and will always be.”
- TEVITA NAIKASOWALU, FIJIAN ENVIRONMENTAL & HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDER