Villagers fret over river gravel extraction

VILLAGERS of Matalolo outside Labasa Town raised their concerns on the procedures for gravel extraction being carried out along the Nakorotari River bank.

A member of the public, Ropate Rakuro, told this newspaper that villagers were concerned with gravel extraction procedures because machines were digging soil along the river banks, instead of extracting rocks from the riverbed.

“It is a worry because this can cause soil erosion on the river banks during the wet season,” he said. “This is the problem when we do not have enough monitoring done on companies working along the river banks and they take advantage of their licence conditions because there is no one to monitor them. Something needs to be done to address this issue and authorities need to look into the concerns raised.”

Suweni district representative Po­a­sa Vocea said there were more than six companies extracting gravel along the Nakorotari River.

Responding to Mr Vocea’s concerns during Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama’s tour of the Northern Division recently, Lands and Mineral Resources Ministry’s permanent secretary Malakai Finau admitted there was not enough done to monitor gravel extraction.

Mr Finau said they recently set up an environment section within their department that would monitor these extraction and mining works.

The ministry’s director Mineral Department, Dr Raijeli Ta­ga, said it was not mandatory for gravel to be extracted from the riverbed but from where a proper licence had been given. Dr Taga said the Ministry of Lands and Mineral Resources issued licences only for any extraction on State land or from the river.

“TLTB gives licences for extraction on Native land and communities near rivers that have gravel deposits need to know that they can assist to monitor and that they should have been consulted during the EIA process,” she said.

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