MORE than 300 full-time and 50 short-term jobs will be created for Fijians following the granting of a mining lease to Australian-owned Amex Resources Limited (ARL).
Amex Resources Limited's core business is the extraction of iron ore from the Ba River delta.
Prime Minister Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama issued the 21-year lease to the company in Suva yesterday.
Commodore Bainimarama said the initial investment of the project, scheduled to commence soon, will Commodore close to $150 million, of which about $75 million would be spent locally.
He said the granting of the mining lease to ARL had been in development for a long time, including feasibility studies, research and extensive planning.
"Following successful launch of Fiji's first bauxite mine in November last year, and well maintained management, the decision to welcome ARL onto our shores was made after informed deliberations and tested experience," Commodore Bainimarama said.
He said as part of a long-term sustainability plan to remove rich deposits of iron sands, ARL would dredge mineral sand from the Ba delta, extract the iron ore and replace the tails back into the delta.
"The iron sands will then be barged to Lautoka, where it will be unloaded, washed and stock-piled," Commodore Bainimarama said.
He said environmental consideration and protection was taken into account before granting the lease.
"It is through such consideration for environmental protection and renewal that my government felt comfortable in both the experience and growth strategy for ARL to pursue this project," Commodore Bainimarama said.
He said the project would have a lot of positive impacts on the local economy.
"In addition to the positive economic impact this project will have on the Fijian economy, increased and consistent activity in and around the river will also assist with necessary dredging to help avoid future flooding," he said.
He said government was committed to position Fiji as a destination for foreign investment.
"We have created an environment that has encouraged such partnerships not only through the systematic elimination of corruption in public and private business, but also through investing in Fiji internal resources."
Commodore Bainimarama said as Fiji's economy continued to expand, reviving old industries and developing new ones, it was important to ensure those operations were transparent and accountable.
"My government is here to empower all Fijians and maintain a safe and productive environment for internal and international investment, directed not by corruption but by responsible management and financial responsibility," he said.
"ARL has demonstrated a strong understanding of these principles and of the financial and economic landscape in Fiji, and as we welcome an expanded and dynamic range of opportunities for foreign investment, government will work to ensure demonstrated stability, integrity, transparency and accountability in all stages," he added.
Meanwhile, ARL managing director Kenny Zhang said they would do their best to take the project to the production stage and use the company as a bridge to introduce more investments.