Fiji village reaps rewards of contentious mining license

Inosi Masivava and his family couldn't be happier in their new village built with money received from a Chinese mining company.

Lidia Narusa proudly shows us around her home, one of nine in the community, complete with solar power and even a washing machine.

They're simple houses but for the remote community it's wealth beyond what they could have imagined.

"Before we were very poor in this place... when this company come it change our lifestyle.

"(Now) we stay in a good home, we have money," Narusa said.

Head of the Nadua mataqali, or clan, Masivava received F$1.8 million (NZ$1.3 million) from Xinfa Aurum Exploration to mine bauxite, the main source of aluminium, on 300 acres of his family's land.

He says it was a "goodwill" payment and a lease has also been signed and extra money will come from that once mining starts. One million has been invested with local company Kontiki Finance and $800,000 has been used to build his extended family their new homes.

He says the company has already done testing on the land and he has faith they won't destroy the land and rivers the people rely on.

"I am confident," Masivava said, and through a translator he tells 1News the Ministry of Environment will be across the situation when mining starts. He wants to do the best he can for his family's future, he said.

But mining for bauxite causes devastating environmental damage, is highly contentious in the region and has resulted in the Solomon Islands cancelling a number of bauxite mining licences.

Currently Xinfa Aurum Exploration has a hold on exporting bauxite from Fiji because of low grade quality.

In January the country's Minister of Lands and Mineral Resources Filimoni Vosarogo visited the Naibulu mine and was reported as saying the company was stockpiling and are looking at mixing it with bauxite they will mine in Australia to lift the quality.

Masivava and his family are enjoying life in their new homes. He says it’s a condition that Xinfa will only work where there is bauxite and only mine in that place.

I asked Narusa if she is worried about the mining to come and she smiled: "I don't know anything about that ay."

They will when the mining starts – they have been given riches to build on their land but for the mining company, the value is what lies beneath.