MAC: Mines and Communities

Indonesia: Fisherfolk take to court against Australian miner

Published by MAC on 2010-04-24
Source: AMMALTA Press Release (2010-04-19)

Local fishefolk are bravely standing up for their rights by bringing a court case against a proposed mine in North Sulawesi that threatens their livelihoods.

Although Archipelago Resources is quoted as an Australian company it is a UK registered company, which is managed from Perth, Western Australia.

For previous coverage: http://www.minesandcommunities.org/article.php?a=9984

"If not us, who else?"

Press release (AMMALTA North Indonesia, Indonesia / BankTrack, International / Mineral Policy Institute, Australia, Les Amis de la Terre)

19 April 2010

They defend their livelihoods and that of thousands of others, and in doing so take a high risk for their lives. Herewith we ask your attention for eight brave fishermen from North Sulawesi province in Indonesia: Nelwan Londo, Petherson Natari, Yulin Manopo, and Samsudin Kalengkongan from North Minahasa regency and David Katang, Abson Sumihi, Wilson Arengsingga and Hendri Suprianto Lule from Bitung regency.

Since 2005 these grassroots environmentalists, representing an ad hoc coastal people's alliance called AMMALTA, are faced with the threat of a gold mine to be established in their neighborhood by Australian Archipelago Resources plc.

Dependent on fishing and agriculture they fear for their and their children's future as the huge amount of acid tailings to be produced by the Toka Tindung gold mine were at first projected to be released into the ocean.

Although this submarine tailings disposal was denied by Jakarta due to the coastal alliance's fierce resistance, the alliance fears that the tailings will still end up in the ground water system, their rivers and their ocean.

According to new planning, the tailings are now to be stored behind dams in the hills above the coastal people's heads. The area they live in, however, is categorized as a high risk earthquake area, prone to tsunamis and suffering annual floods during the wet season.

Thus the fishermen not only fight for their own livelihoods but also for those of hundreds and thousands of others who need the drinking water from Toka Tindung, especially the international harbor town Bitung with a population of 200,000 which is North Sulawesi's industrial heart. The fishermen's daily catch is processed in Bitung and exported all over the world. The fishermen ask, "Who will want to buy our fish if the mine is known to contaminate our waters?"

The fishermen understand that their and their children's future is sold by unscrupulous speculators and corrupt Indonesian politicians for quick money from a most dubious gold mining project. Its life span is estimated to be six to eight years only, creating not more than 450 jobs in the province but threatening to ruin viable economic sectors like tourism and fishery which provide sustainable jobs for thousands.

In December 2009, the eight fishermen filed a lawsuit against the Indonesian Ministry for Environment which has approved the company's EIA (Environment Impact Assessment) in October 2009.

[Earlier the company's] plan for submarine disposal of tailings had been denied by the same Ministry in December 2005 and its planned storage on land was denied in February 2007, by the Governor of the province of North Sulawesi.

The fishermen accuse former Minister for Environment Rahmat Witoelar, who went into pension five days after he signed the EIA, of having violated valid Indonesian law. Witoelar approved of the EIA on grounds of an old environmental law (UU No. 23 / 1997) which had already been replaced by new regulation UU No 32 / 2009 three days before his signing. The law suit, which was accepted by the National Institutional Law Court, is still ongoing.

The Ministry denies the plaintiffs' accusations, arguing the eight fishermen are not entitled to file the lawsuit as they don't represent a registered non-governmental organization but only their private interests.

For that reason, WALHI, the Indonesian Friends of the Earth, has announced to also file a law suit against the mining company this week. The company on the other hand has made use of its right of intervention.

In the meantime the fishermen know they have taken on a big risk - like David fighting Goliath. They have reason to fear the worst: Some of them were brutally attacked and injured by mining security forces when returning to their villages after a peaceful mass demonstration against the mine in July 2006.

A seven month pregnant woman lost her child due to repeated kicks in her stomach, a man suffered head injuries after being pulled off a truck and beaten up. The fishermen know that they fight mighty, powerful forces, but they argue, "If it is not us, who will take the first step?"

We, the undersigning non-governmental organizations appreciate the braveness of these eight fishermen. Who else, if not us?

Signed:
AMMALTA North Indonesia, Indonesia
BankTrack, International, www.banktrack.org
Mineral Policy Institute, Australia, www.mpi.org.au
Les Amis de la Terre, France, www.amisdelaterre.org

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Contact for the press:
AMMALTA, Revoldi Koleangan: didirevkots@gmail.com
Sonja Willems, BankTrack: sonja@banktrack.org, 0031 243249220
Les Amis de la Terre, Yann Louvel: yann.louvel@amisdelaterre.org
Mineral Policy Institute, Charles Roche: charles.roche@mpi.org.au

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