Rainforest Trust Partner Helps Stop Bauxite Mine

Ethan Freedman

Jul 5, 2018

NewsCommunities

“I’ll take ‘Def-ORE-station’ for $1,000, Alex.”

“Gibbsite, boehmite and diaspore make up much of this ore whose mining is contributing to deforestation across the tropics.”

“…”

~~~~~~~

You probably have never have heard of bauxite. But you almost certainly use bauxite-derived products every day.

Bauxite is one of the most important sources of aluminum. Yes, despite your steadfast recycling habits, the world is still mining new sources of aluminum. In fact, even if we recycled every soda can in the world, we would still mine more sources of aluminum. Today, manufacturing everything from cars to currency to rocket fuel requires aluminum. So, needless to say, we love ourselves some aluminum.

But where does it all come from?

  • Aluminum.

Often, from bauxite. And we love ourselves some bauxite. We mine it all over the world, but especially in tropical regions. In fact, we love bauxite so much that in 2017, we mined 300,000 metric tons of the stuff.

That’s the same as 1,634 jumbo jets.

But you know who might not love themselves some bauxite? The communities whose land is being mined and whose forests are being cleared to get to it.

  • Raw bauxite. Photo by Werner Schellmann/CC 3.0

Around the world, mining spells trouble for the world’s rainforests and communities who live in rainforests. Because when mining clears the forests, guess who rarely gets a say in whether that happens?

The people who actually live near these mines.

Yes, not only has mining contributed to ecological devastation of the world’s rainforests, the communities who will face the brunt of the environmental consequences often have little say over how, when and if mining occurs.

But not today. At least, not on the island of Nende in the Solomon Islands.

Rainforest Trust’s partner in the Pacific island nation, OceansWatch-Solomon Islands, recently helped stop a bauxite prospecting project. An Australian mining company, AU Capital Mining, had received a permit to prospect for the mineral on Nende. But, according to OceansWatch-Solomon Islands, many local landowners are in opposition to the idea. In fact, last year the Guardian reported that this company faced allegations it “coerced, bullied and tricked communities into signing over prospecting rights to their land.”

  • A boy from the Solomon Islands. Photo by OceansWatch.

But last month, Radio New Zealand reported that the Solomon Islands government rescinded AU Capital Mining’s exploratory license on Nende due to “unsatisfactory” work. Radio New Zealand also reported that Solomon Islands Mining Minister Braddley Tovosia said that “the company had failed to establish amicable relations with the local communities.”

This was something the prospecting agreement had stipulated as necessary.

Our partner worked alongside local landowners to get this permit rescinded. Without their work, the mine development may have continued unabated, despite objections from the Nende communities. This decision is a victory for both these communities and Nende’s wildlife, including the endemic and Endangered Nendo Shrikebill.

Rainforest Trust is working with OceansWatch-Solomon Islands on protecting two Biodiversity Reserves on islands nearby Nende. These reserves are home to threatened and endemic species such as the Critically Endangered Vanikoro Flying Fox and the Endangered Santa Cruz Ground-dove.

  • The Endangered Santa Cruz Ground-dove. Photo by OceansWatch.

Learn more about our project to protect threatened wildlife in the Solomon Islands.