Solomon Islands: 'irreversible' oil spill disaster
The Solomon Islands' caretaker Prime Minister Rick Hou is threatening to "blacklist" the companies involved in a 100-ton oil-spill near a UNESCO World Heritage Site. "My government is prepared to go as far as putting the companies on a black list internationally if they do not take on their responsibilities," he told a press conference March 7, without elaborating on how this would actually sanction the companies involved. He did say the lease for the Bauxite mine could be suspended. Hou, who faces an election next month, has called in Australia's assistance to clean up the spill, which he described as causing "irreversible damage," acknowledging his country's resources were inadequate for the task. "The impact on the marine life and the coral is already massive with much of it irreversible," he said.
The bulk carrier MV Solomon Trader ran aground Feb. 4 in Kangava Bay, Rennell Island, while loading bauxite ore in a cyclone. Because of the storm, it took salvage crews several days before they could reach the stricken craft. Compounding the damage, Indonesian-owned Bintan Mining Ltd, which chartered the vessel, continued to operate as the oil flowed into the sea, with other ships maneuvering around the wreckage, churning up the oil even more. Rennell Island, known locally as Mugaba, is home to some 1,840 people, who overwhelmingly rely on fishing for their livelihood. The spill threatens the East Rennell World Heritage Site, the world's largest raised coral atoll.
Bintan Mining is owned by Indo Bauxite Mining Group, which also has operatons in the Dominican Republic, and mostly supplies the Chinese market. (Radio Australia, Radio New Zealand, Weather Channel, UNESCO)