A logging site
RAMSI’s recent ‘transition’ has become the subject of intense deliberation among the Australian policy community, according to an academic paper.
With the mission gone, analysts from the Australian National University’s State Society and Governance in Melanesia Program said another significant transition is currently underway in the Solomon Islands’ economy, with the shift in the export base from logging to mining.
A report from the program claimed the Gold Ridge mine, which was shut down in 2000 as a consequence of militant activities on Guadalcanal, re-opened in 2011; and there is mineral prospecting and mine lease conversion taking place throughout the archipelago.
It claims Solomon’s long-suffering forests, for several decades the victims of a notorious alliance between politicians, local big-men and Malaysian logging companies are nearing commercial exhaustion.
‘The history of mining and conflict in Solomon Islands, as well as in neighboring Bougainville and mainland PNG, suggests that the costs and benefits of Gold Ridge and future mining operations will have to be handled with great care.
“Is Solomon Islands transitioning from one form of ‘resource curse’ to another, and one likely to generate major stresses and divisions with potential for violent conflict?
‘What are the political economy implications of this shift from logging to mining?” the report questions.
In addition to the shifting export base, Solomon Islands is also undergoing several of the deep structural changes that have characterized development in many other fragile contexts.
‘While rates of urbanization remain relatively low, Honiara has more residents than ever before, with the town boundaries spilling over into surrounding areas, much of which are under customary ownership.
Colonial era infrastructure is totally inadequate to the needs of the expanding capital.
Significant agrarian change is also taking place in some rural areas, especially in those where population densities are highest, such as on north Malaita, and where there is significant cash-crop production, such as on north Guadalcanal.