Solomon Islands: Oil spill impacts local communities' health, food sources & livelihood

A major oil spill in a remote region of the Solomon Islands is seriously impacting the health and livelihoods of local communities in the affected area. Residents in the remote region around Rennell Island, Solomon Islands, are also complaining of a heavy stench that is hindering breathing.

King Trader Ltd. (Hong Kong), owns the vessel involved in the incident which was transporting bauxite to China from a local mine operated by Bintan Mining Solomon Islands Ltd. Media reports about the incident are linked below. 

Business & Human Rights Resource Centre invited both the ship owner, King Trader, and miner, Bintan Mining Solomon Islands Ltd., to respond to these issues. Neither company responded to us. 

 

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Article
25 July 2019

Solomon Islands: bay hit by oil spill suffers second contamination crisis

Author: Lisa Martin, The Guardian

5 July 2019

...MV Solomon Trader ran aground on a reef in February, spilling about 80 tonnes of heavy fuel oil. The vessel was there to load bauxite from the island's mining operations, which lies on the doorstep of a world heritage site in the island's east.

...While local villagers have been told not to eat fish, it is understood many still are, in the absence of other food sources on the remote island. Test results are yet to come back to determine whether fish stocks have been contaminated with hydrocarbons.

...A Bintan Mining Solomon Islands company spokesman told the Guardian...that loading operations were suspended following the incident.... The company would not comment further.

Sources on the ground said the company had moved loading operations to other parts of the island.

...The bulk carrier's insurer, KP&I, said negotiations over clean-up operation costs would kick off soon but warned compensation claims would take time.

Although matters of liability are yet to be determined, the insurer and ship owner have previously "expressed deep remorse" and characterised the situation as "totally unacceptable".

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Article
14 May 2019

Solomon Islands to refloat ship after oil spill

Author: Radio New Zealand

10 May 2019

Efforts will begin...in Solomon Islands to refloat a wrecked ship at the centre of an environmental disaster.

...[T]he Solomon Islands Disaster Management Office said the vessel will be refloated and towed from the reef.

Its director, Loti Yates, said the process, which is being led by a salvager contracted by the shipowner's insurer, will take around three days.

"It is a huge and very, very difficult operation," he said.

...Mr Yates said investigations by the Solomon Islands government into the disaster had been obstructed by a missing data drive taken from the ship by its owner.

He said requests for the data - which is too big to transfer online - to be sent physically had gone unanswered....

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Article
3 April 2019

Rennell oil spill an inevitable outcome of broken system, says academic

Author: Radio New Zealand

1 April 2019

An Australian academic and environmental management expert says the oil spill in Rennell was not just an accident but an inevitable outcome of a broken system.

...Questions of liability, inadequate legislation and corporate responsibility have been pored over again and again with the maritime incident being described by the country's prime minister as the worst man-made environmental disaster in recent times.

University of Queensland senior research fellow Simon...said..."If we all reflect on this it is more than just a foreign mining company causing environmental damage. I think we all need to reflect on the various stakeholders whether that is the role of the community, the role of the government, the role of outsiders like myself and the role of international partners in creating the environment and the framework to allow this accident to happen."

In the latest twist of events the Indonesian miner Bintan Mining Corporation, which chartered the stricken MV Solomon Trader, is suing the ship's owner King Trader Ltd.

A spokesperson for the miner...they were suing the shipping company as the charterer and on behalf of the people of Rennell Bellona.

"We will stand for the rights of the rights of the people of Rennell Bellona to hold the ship owner viable for the incident", the spokesperson said.

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Article
3 April 2019

Solomon Islands oil spill victims need clean water

Author: Radio New Zealand

28 March 2019

Rennell Islanders in the Solomon Islands are relying on clean water shipments after a toxic oil spill near their home.

Clean-up and salvage efforts are still underway in Rennell, after a mining ship groundedon a reef there....

A Honiara-based community member said locals got very sick in the first two weeks after the spill but have mostly recovered.

Stephen Nikamatu'a said they are now in need of clean water sent from the capital.

"The big issue we are facing back home, they say our water tanks have been contaminated by oil plus bauxite, so we tried to send some water last ship."

Mr Nikamatu'a said the recent shipment has nearly run out and they are looking to send more water.

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Article
19 March 2019

Oil leak from Solomon Trader reportedly halted

Author: Radio New Zealand

The MV Solomon Trader got stuck on a reef on Rennell Island in early February, and began leaking oil

The Maritime Executive reported that salvors had removed 230 tonnes of bunkers out of an estimated 600 tonnes on board.

However, the existing spill is worse than it previously estimated, according to shipowner King Trader and its insurer Korea P&I.

In a statement the companies said the amount leaked is more than that of initial estimates of some 70 tonnes of oil

They said that will be clarified as the response progresses.

At least five kilometres of reefs and coastline have been soiled with fuel oil, and estimates of the cost of cleanup range as high as $US50 million.

The ship's charterer, bauxite mine operator Bintan Mining, claims that it bears no responsibility for the casualty, and its operations continue.

The Solomon Islands' acting prime minister, Rick Hou, has threatened to "blacklist" the companies involved if they "do not take on their responsibilities."

Salvors including specialists from the US and Australia are in the country helping with the salvage operation.

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Company non-response
18 March 2019

Bintan Mining Solomon Islands Limited did not respond

Company non-response
18 March 2019

King Trader did not respond

Author: King Trader Ltd.

Article
8 March 2019

Companies in Solomons ship disaster could be forced to shut down

Author: Radio New Zealand

8 March 2019

The Solomon Islands caretaker Prime Minister Rick Hou says the government is looking again at the lease for bauxite mining operator, APID and its associate BinTan Mining Solomon Islands.

This comes after the environmental destruction caused by a bauxite carrier running aground in Kangava Bay on Rennell Island, which led to 100 tonnes of heavy fuel oil flowing into the bay.

Mr Hou said both mining companies, along with the shipping company, are responsible for the clean-up.

Furthermore he said the mining companies may be barred from Rennell.

"The decision on the company mining lease and development consent will be done when all assessments I have instructed have been completed," he said.

"We have laws in this country and regardless of the inadequacies in some areas they still form the basis upon which decisions relating to the mining lease and development consent must be addressed."

Mr Hou said Solomon Islands has earned little from the more than 64 loads of bauxite ore that have been shipped off Rennell since the mine started operations.

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Article
8 March 2019

Solomons PM blames companies for Rennell disaster

Author: Jamie Tahana, Radio New Zealand

8 March 2019

The Solomon Islands' caretaker prime minister is defending his government's reaction to an unfolding environmental disaster, pinning the blame on the companies involved.

...Mr Hou said the ship's owner, Hong Kong-based King Trading, its South Korean insurer and the operator of the bauxite mine, Bintan and APID, are responsible.

He said he was infuriated by the low priority the companies had given the disaster.

"APID and BMSI are fully and vicariously liable because without mining and the charter arrangements which both are responsible for, the ship would never have been in Rennell. The government is concerned that the overall response by the ship's owners and insurers, has been very slow."

"...The government cannot and will not accept any claims by the company that this accident was outside their control. The company and the ship are also very aware of the cyclone season. They would have heard the weather warnings that went out. We cannot accept this was unforeseen. Rather, we see this was as constituting a very careless action by the ship's crew."

He says the government will look at the future of the operations.

"The decision on the company mining lease and development consent will be done when all assessments I have instructed have been completed. We have laws in this country and regardless of the inadequacies in some areas they still form the basis upon which decisions relating to the mining lease and development consent must be addressed."

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Article
6 March 2019

Ship owner and insurer apologise for Solomons oil spill

Author: Radio New Zealand

6 March 2019

The insurer and owner of the ship responsible for one of Solomon Islands' worst man-made disasters have apologised to the people of the country.

...In a statement, the insurer, Korea P&I Club, and the owner, King Trading Ltd, apologised for the grounding and said they had deep remorse.

They said while matters of liability were still being determined, the spill had caused unnecessary coastal damage.

The statement said the response was slowed by Rennell's isolation, a loss of the ship's power, the looting of equipment and poor weather.

However, salvage crews were now working with experts deployed from around the world, it said.

Efforts to pump the remaining 600 tonnes of oil off the ship would begin as soon as a barge arrived from Vanuatu.

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