Indonesia updatePublished by MAC on 2007-04-27
27th April 2007
Environmental Auditing of Granite Mining Tightened
17th Apri 2007
The Department for the Environment will tighten the environmental auditing of granite mining rather than banning exports. "My concern aims at whether or not granite exploration damages the environment. The environmental auditing will be the way, instead of banning exports, which is under the authority of the Department of Trade," State Minister for the Environment told Tempo yesterday (04/16).
Earlier, Rear Admiral Muryono, Commander of Indonesian Navy Fleet Command of the Western Area, urged the government to ban sand exports, using environmental grounds as the argument. He also asked the regional government not to easily issue a granite mining permit (Koran Tempo, April 13).
Rachmat said that his party as well as related agencies have acted upon the environmental auditing of granite mining that the Indonesian Military mentioned on Riau Island. However, up until today, the final result is yet to be obtained. "The result will be announced in around two weeks from now," he said.
He revealed that environmental damage was not the only reason to ban exports on mining materials. "With environmental auditing, the ones who do the damage will be sentenced to a closing down of the mining exploration company," he said.
Indoneisan Mine Pollution Ruling: Setback for Environmental Justice
MEDIA ADVISORY, Friends of the Earth International
24th April 2007
JAKARTA (INDONESIA) 24 April 2007 -- Friends of the Earth International, the world's largest grassroots environmental network, is extremely disappointed by today's verdict on a mining pollution case in North Sulawesi in Indonesia which shamefully ignored compelling evidence.
The Manado District Court unexpectedly ruled that US mining giant Newmont was not guilty of polluting 'Buyat Bay', in a major setback for the environment, the local community and the rule of law in Indonesia.
According to Friends of the Earth International, the judgment delivered today in Manado shamefully ignored compelling evidence presented by the government-convened Joint Investigative Team which condemned the company's operations in 2004, finding that mine waste had caused extensive environmental damage.
Newmont used the destructive practice of ocean disposal of mine waste known as 'submarine tailings disposal' in Buyat Bay. In Newmont's home country, the United States, this destructive practice is effectively banned under the Clean Water Act.
Meena Raman, the Friends of the Earth International chair, said: "This judgment is unfortunate, as the Indonesian justice system has missed an opportunity to make US mining giant Newmont accountable for its crimes against the environment and the local Buyat Bay community. Newmont is notorious for environmental malpractice at many of its operations around the world."
Members of the Friends of the Earth International network from the Asia Pacific region, who are gathered in Ciawi near Jakarta to discuss the threat of climate change, took time to comment on the judgment.
Meena Raman, the Friends of the Earth International chair, said: "Why should local communities bear the brunt of environmental pollution and loss of livelihoods while a multinational mining company walks away with the proceeds of the public's natural resources? Friends of the Earth International stands in solidarity with WALHI [Friends of the Earth Indonesia] and will not rest until polluters are made to pay."
Buyat Bay Background information:
Due to failures in managing its gold ore roasting and mine waste detoxification, Newmont discharged around 33 tons of mercury over a four-year period, 16 of which were dumped into the ocean and 17 of which were released directly into the atmosphere.
The mine waste Newmont dumped into Buyat Bay also contained heavy metals, which contaminated the seabed with arsenic at concentrations ten to twenty times higher than the US, Australian, New Zealand and Canadian guidelines for marine sediment.
Local communities have been struggling against Newmont's Minahasa Raya gold mine for a decade, since Newmont began depositing 2000 tons of tailings per day onto the sea floor of Buyat Bay in 1996. At several points during the period between 1996 to 1999, thousands of fish were observed floating dead in the vicinity of the tailings disposal pipe.
FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT
Friends of the Earth International chair Meena Raman. Tel: +60-124300042
Randurini, Media Relation & Communication, Friends of the Earth
Indonesia (WALHI). Tel:. +62 21 7919 3363-68 Mobile: +62 813 854 55229
Farah Sofa, Corporate Accountability Campaigner, Friends of the Earth
Indonesia (WALHI). Mobile: +62 811 194773
NOTES TO EDITORS:
 The Top Ten Key Findings of 2004 Technical Team Buyat Bay report are online here: http://www.walhi.or.id/eng/buyat_team_summary
Flawed Judgement: Newmont Buyat Bay Criminal Case
Joint Media Release
24th April 2007
Wahana Lingkungan Hidup Indonesia (WALHI/Friends of the Earth Indonesia), Mining Advocacy Network (JATAM), Indonesian Centre for Enviromental Law (ICEL)
Jakarta - Environment groups have questioned the legal basis of yesterday’s Manado District court finding in favor of mining company Newmont Minahasa Raya (NMR) and its president director, Richard B Ness, indicted of polluting Buyat Bay with mining waste.
The reasons for the verdict as read to the public in the Manado court reveal that the judges ignored fundamental facts presented in evidence, such as the high levels of heavy metals contained in the company’s mine waste (tailings) which were dumped into Buyat Bay at a rate of 2000 tons per day, and breaches of legally enforceable environmental quality standards revealed in the company’s own quarterly monitoring reports. The panel of judges also neglected investigation results from the Central Forensic Laboratory (Puslabfor) of the Indonesian National Police, citing accreditation reasons.
Chalid Muhammad, Executive Director of WALHI said, "Despite both documents substantiating the indictment on pollution charges, the Manado Court freed Newmont Minahasa Raya and Richard B Ness from legal sanctions based on questionable legal technicalities and procedures."
Noted Indonesian environmental law expert, Mas Achmad Santosa, added "The court proceedings were not impartial. The panel of judges did not properly consider the testimony and technical explanations of witnesses and experts called by prosecutors. The reasons cited by the panel of judges are based only on the testimony provided by witnesses called by Newmont.”
Despite yesterday’s verdict, the criminal prosecution process is not over yet. According to Indonesia’s Penal Law Code, the public prosecutor can appeal the case in a higher court.
WALHI, JATAM, and ICEL urge the public prosecutor and the government of Indonesia to submit an appeal to Supreme Court. The prosecutors have a duty to point out to the supreme court and the public the flaws in the Manado court proceedings and the legal reasons provided by the panel of judges. We also urge the judicial commission to undertake an investigation into improprieties which transpired in the Manado court. [end]
Chalid Muhammad, National Director, WALHI, +62 811 847 163
Siti Maimunah, National Coordinator, Mining Advocacy Network
(JATAM) +62 811 920 462
P. Raja Siregar, WALHI Researcher for the Buyat Bay case, +62 8111
Mas Achmad Santosa, Environmental Law expert, +62 818 183 477
In an Indonesian bay, fish, tumours and controversy
by Nabiha Shahab
BUYAT BAY, Indonesia, (AFP)
23rd April 2007
Junaidi, a 20-year-old fisherman, proudly shows off his catch as children play nearby in the turquoise waters of Indonesia's Buyat Bay.
"I would not move anywhere else, where else would you easily get this much fish?" asked Junaidi pointing to his tub full of fish, caught fresh just outside the bay.
Like many in this tranquil and remote coastal community, Junaidi rejects claims that the bay on the northern tip of Sulawesi island has been polluted by US mining giant Newmont.
The firm, the world's largest gold miner, has been charged with dumping tonnes of toxic waste, including mercury and arsenic, into the pristine bay from its local mine before it was shut in 2004.
A court in nearby Manado is expected to rule Tuesday on whether Newmont's local subsidiary and its head poisoned water around the bay over several years, thereby sickening villagers and killing marine life.
Although Junaidi cares little of the case, several thousand residents of a nearby village, as well as foreign investors and environmentalists, anxiously await the outcome of the final chapter in the three-year controversy.
Some from the village, also called Buyat, just outside the bay and downhill from the defunct mine, complain of tumours, skin rashes and headaches -- illnesses they blame on Newmont's waste.
Jania Ompi, 44, has a tumour the size of a fist on her back and can barely see out of one eye.
With little energy and in constant pain, Ompi said she relies on her adult children to collect coconuts from their trees and tend the maize plants.
Despite five months in a provincial hospital for treatment on the tumour and for an operation on her eyes, she said her suffering continues.
"It is better to die than live like this," Ompi said.
She added that her husband, Abdullah Mokodompit, had a tumour removed from his side last year, and is now bedridden most days with chronic asthma.
Other families, also suffering from illnesses, have relocated from the bay, after complaints first emerged of pollution in 2004, a community leader said.
"We asked the government to relocate people from the bay who were suffering the most," said Faisal Paputungan, who has aches in his feet and cramps.
The 64-year-old grandfather said every month about 200 residents of Buyat village visit a local health centre.
"Before 1999 the number of people coming to the centre was a lot less than that," said Fatlun Gonibala, a nurse at the centre.
Although the villagers blame the pollution, studies of water and marine life around Buyat Bay, and of water in village wells, have shown conflicting results.
A World Health Organisation-backed report and testimony from doctors and experts, during the 20-month trial against Newmont, showed mercury and arsenic levels were well within normal limits.
But Budi Haryanto, an epidemiologist in the University of Indonesia, said a study conducted for the government showed unacceptable levels of the poisons in samples taken from some locals.
"Whatever Newmont does, it cannot cover the fact that there was a problem and it came after the mine opened," he said.
Back in Buyat Bay, boat owner Gasmin Maku is grateful for the money Newmont has poured into the town.
A new resort has opened up bearing its name.
"Life is good. There is plenty of business during the holidays," said Maku, who takes visitors from the resort on sight-seeing trips in his boat and children on tyre rides around the bay.
Newmont agreed last year to pay 30 million dollars in an out-of-court settlement of a civil suit with the government over the pollution.
The deal, which did not see the Denver-based company admit any wrongdoing, stipulates the money is to be spent on environmental monitoring of the area, as well as health, education and infrastructure projects.
Buyat Bay Case: Court has to decide for People Justice
Joint Press Release
20th April 2007
Mining Advocacy Network (JATAM), WALHI/Friends of the Earth Indonesia, Indonesian Centre for Environmental Law (ICEL)
Jakarta- On Tuesday, April 24th 2007, after suspicious delay, criminal court decision on Newmont Minahasa Raya will be read. During a year session, the prosecutor has been showing a number of clear and strong evidences about the violation of environmental law and presumption of Buyat Bay pollution. Newmont’s pledoi even could not object these evidences.
The evidences of the violation of law are easy to find in Newmont’s Environmental Monitoring Plan and Environmental Management Plan (1). Newmont’s tailing wastes which contained Arsenic, Mercury, Silver, Zinc, and Manganese already more than the verified standards, like showed 121 times at least in the document, before discharged to Buyat Bay. The standards are decided on Enviromental Ministry Decision (Kepmen LH) No. 51/MENLH/10/1995 Annex C and tailing standard based on Enviromental Ministry Decision Letter / Head of Bapedal (Environmental Impact Assessement Agency) No. B-1456/Bapedal/07/2000.
During 2001 to 2004, Newmont did not have permission to dump tailing to the sea. The official document published by the company had proved that the former Environmental Minister / Head of Bapedal never gave the permission at that time.
Investigations held by Police National Headquarter and findings from Joint Team For Buyat Bay had issued the validly proved facts of Buyat Bay pollution. Newmont’s tailing has endangered the sea biodiversity such as phytoplankton and bentos(2) around the dumping area.
Evidences above already shown in the session held since August 2005. Based on the facts in the session, the prosecutor has correctly and certainly proved the pollution done by Newmont. On the contrary, Newmont answered these facts by showed the limited studies done by CSIRO, WHO, and Minamata Institute (3).
WHO and National Minamata Institute’s investigation result was only ‘temporarily pictured’ and limited to acknowledge the similarity indications with Minamata disease, which was not found. But Newmont and its supporters claimed that in this report mentioned that there wasn’t any pollution in Buyat Bay. The company even has published several advertisements in mass media for this purpose. It is shameful when they also used these advertisements as pledoi materials in front of the court.
As stated by Budi Haryanto, an epidemiologist from Community Health Faculty of University of Indonesia, “The WHO / National Minamata Institute’s investigation result only temporarily pictured and should not represent the whole environmental situation and condition in Buyat Bay. Jan Speets, WHO expert whom investigated this case, also admitted that there was health problems in Buyat Bay though he does not know the cause. Jan Speets was also surprised why Health Ministry let the Newmont’S claims.(5) The evidences are strong. People of Buyat do hope that the panel of judges stands beside them and make a just and independent decision for this case.
Torry Kuswardono, WALHI, 0811 383 270
Luluk Uliyah, JATAM, 0815 9480 246
Dyah Paramita, ICEL, 0815 84118 753
1. Environmental Management Plan Report and Environmental Monitoring Plan Report are parts of Environmental Impact Assessment which are compiled and reported by a company every 3 months. This document is obligatory and a legal document that bind the company to conduct environmental management and monitoring around its mining area.
2. Bentos is deep sea animal and phytoplankton is a sea flora. Both are in marine ecosystem chain. Government Joint Team in 2004 found that there was a consistent relationship between low diversity index of benthos and high concentrate arsenic in Buyat Bay sediment.
3. See the comparison between CSIRO, WHO, and National Minamata Institute reports and Joint Team report.
4. dr. Budi Haryanto is a member of First team who conducted the advanced studies with Environmental Ministry to seek Arsenic contents inside water wells at the Buyat Bay nearby dwellings and arsenic content in Buyat people's hair dan urine.
5. Source: Singkap Buyat : Temuan, Pengabaian dan Kolusi (Singkap Buyat: Findings, Neglect, and Collusion), by P. Raja Siregar, WALHI 2005, Jakarta.
Newmont executive, company found not guilty in pollution trial
The Jakarta Post
24th April 2007
MANADO (AP): An Indonesian court found a U.S. executive and his company, Newmont Mining Co., not guilty Tuesday of polluting a bay and sickening villagers, a verdict likely to cheer foreigninvestors and anger environmentalists.
Richard Ness, 57, faced a maximum 10 years in jail and a US$60,000 (euro44,000) fine.
Presiding judge Ridwan Damanik told the Manado District Court that evidence presented during the 20-month criminal trial proved that waste rock dumped into the water by Newmont's now-defunctmine on Sulawesi island did not exceed government standards.
"There also is not enough evidence that people suffered from health problems," the judge said.
Meanwhile, demonstrators gathered outside the court Tuesday said the government should protect its citizens. Crowds swelled from just 60 in the morning to 1,000 several hours later, some chanting and singing.
"We want Newmont and its director to take responsibility for what they've done," said protest organizer, Didi Koleangan, referring to allegations villagers living near the exploration site have complained of skin disease, lumps, breathingdifficulties and dizziness.
Though evidence presented to the Manado District Court was limited to a few villagers complaining of itchiness, some activists say follow-up research should be conducted for up to 30 years to make sure they are not suffering from body arsenicaccumulation. Newmont began operations in Sulawesi in 1996, but the Denver, Colorado-based company stopped mining in 2004 after extracting all the gold and ore it could.
Last year, Newmont reached a US$30 million out-of-court settlement with the government to defuse a separate civil suit over alleged toxic pollution in the bay, and could be fined another US$100,000 (euro73,500) if the company is judged guiltyon criminal charges Tuesday. (**)