Hon. Minister for Waterways and Environment, Mahendra Reddy
Permanent Secretary for Lands and Minerals Resources, Malakai Finau
Head of Economic and Social Sectors, EU Delegation for the Pacific, Emmanuelle Guiheneuf
Excellences, members of the diplomatic corps
(H.E. Ambassador of France, Sujiro Seam; H.E. High Commissioner of New Zealand, Jonathan Curr; H.E. High Commissioner of Vanuatu, Nikenike Vurobaravu)
Civil society and private sector representatives
Event partners, ladies and gentlemen:
This morning after my breakfast and before coming to this venue, I brushed my teeth. I hope, ladies and gentlemen, that you did the same. Not only because oral hygiene is important, but because, if you did brush your teeth, you had interacted with Development Minerals!
In fact, depending on your morning routine, you may have used Development Minerals more than a few times today.
The toothpaste we use contains various minerals such as fluoride and sodium carbonate. The salt we use with our breakfast meal is an important mineral as well. We have salt makers from the Lomawai Village with us at this Trade Fair.
My kitchen counter is made of a polished stone and the tiles in my bathroom are made of clay. Coming here, I drove on a road made of crushed aggregates produced from a nearby quarry. And I am standing here, in the Novotel Convention Centre, in a building that is made of limestone rock from the Old Lami Quarry.
Development Minerals are all around us, but we often don’t notice them. This is why they are also called Neglected Minerals or Low-Value Minerals. They are too often overlooked but play a pivotal role in our economies. In Fiji, it is estimated that they contribute up to 3.7% of the GDP.
They are the pillar of the construction industry as we need more and higher quality materials to build resilient infrastructure that can withstand the impacts of disasters and climate change, particularly here, in the highly vulnerable Pacific islands.
Their low price (per ton) and huge quantities required by growing economies usually mean many Development Minerals are locally sourced, providing income opportunities for the resource owners and small and medium companies involved in this business. On average, one Fijian requires up to 4 cubic meters of aggregates per year. This relative quantity would further increase in order to fulfill the ambition of Fiji’s five-year development plan.
Development Minerals could also be part of regional economy and trade. As an example, great quantities of aggregates will be required in Tuvalu for its coastal adaptation works, so Fiji and other Pacific countries can supply the atoll nation with much needed materials.
The relatively easy access and extraction of Development Minerals are also their curse. All too often, these minerals are mined unsustainably, create environmental problems, and do not equally benefit communities that hold them in their trust.
Recognizing the importance of Development Minerals for resilient development and the challenges faced by the industry, the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States has initiated a programme to put a spotlight on sustainable and inclusive use of Development Minerals. With generous funding of from the European Union and in partnership with UNDP, the ’ACP-EU Development Minerals Programme’ has been running in 6 pilot countries globally, including Fiji, aiming to build the capacity of a wide range of stakeholders in managing these resources.
I would like to acknowledge the Ministry of Lands and Mineral Resources for its active leadership and engagement in this initiative, working hand in hand with UNDP.
During the three years of this partnership, the programme has organized a number of workshops, sensitization and training events bringing the industry stakeholders together. Some of these engagements include the Regional Geodata training; the Occupational Health and Safety training; the development of standards and specifications for construction materials together with the Fiji Roads Authority; the Entrepreneurship and Business Skills training with the National Centre for Small and Micro-Enterprise Development (NCSMED); and the first-ever Fiji Workshop on Addressing Grievances in Development Minerals in collaboration with the Fiji Mediation Centre. The partners I just mentioned will be delighted to see you in their respective booths during the fair.
The Programme has also provided small grants to resource owners for their start-up enterprises. It has also assisted the FNU in setting up a course curriculum for the next generation of industry operators, the ‘’Certificate IV in Mining and Quarrying’’.
This Trade Fair is therefore a culmination of three years of hard work with many partners to deepen the understanding of Development Minerals among all stakeholders and to help them make better informed and more sustainable choices in the future.
But this is not the end of the road for our minerals programme. With our partners, UNDP is now focusing on the next stage of this partnership, and we call on all stakeholders to stay engaged with this agenda so we can together take it to the next level.
The second phase of this project will start in March 2019, and we need your ideas and suggestions so that we tailor it to the country’s needs. There’s much learning accumulated so far in this initiative, and we are keen to address the gaps and challenges as we set out to design Phase 2.
Once again, I extend my thanks and appreciation to the Mineral Resources Department for making Phase 1 a worthwhile and successful project in a focus area that had been on the sidelines of development far too long.
I would also like to thank all the participants in this Trade Fair who came to present their products and services. We have well over 30 booths at the Fair today. The partnership and keen interest of so many organizations present here today is a testament to the fact that Neglected Development Minerals are neglected no more, and are indeed “Indispensable Minerals for Development”.
To all the guest, please take your time to visit the booths and learn about the many applications of minerals in our lives, network with each other, and make business connections for sustainable and inclusive mineral development in Fiji.