MAC: Mines and Communities

Newmont Confirmed as Pollution Suspect - Executive Accountability Demanded

Published by MAC on 2004-09-03

Newmont Confirmed as Pollution Suspect - Executive Accountability Demanded

Media release WALHI, JATAM, ICEL, LBH Jakarta, TAPAL

3 September 2004

Jakarta - Indonesian environment and legal community organisations welcomed an announcement by Indonesian Police that US mining company Newmont is their official suspect in the case of the industrial pollution of Buyat Bay with mining waste. However, Indonesian NGOs including the Forum for the Environment, the Center for Environmental Law and the Mining Advocacy Network stress that in this case it is not sufficient to name middle-management company staff as suspects, but rather Newmont Executives because this case involves suspected corporate crime.

"Clause 46 of Law No.23 (1997) states that responsibility for a criminal act commmitted by a corporation falls upon the corporation and/or upon the leaders who committted or comissioned the criminal act. If the corporation is the suspect, then the representative of the company for legal purposes is the chief executive,", said Indro Sugianto of the Indonesian Center for Environmental Law (ICEL). Therefore, the police identification of a Newmont staffer as suspect must be accompanied by the identification of Newmont Minahasa Raya's Executive Director as a suspect.

"If the Newmont Minahasa Raya's ED is not named as a suspect, we are concerned that this will weaken the police case which argues that an environmental crime has been comitted by Newmont corporation under Clause 46 of Law No.23 (1997). Therefore, firm action towards the Newmont ED must be immediately taken by the government," added Nur Hidayati from the Indonesian Forum for the Environment (WALHI).

The Indonesian police must handle this case progressively, remembering that in previous cases of environmental crime, ordinary staff are usually named as suspects even though they are simply carrying out orders from their managers. "Let's hope that in this case, the national police do not repeat the mistake of criminalising junior staff, while the executives who are responsible walk away unpunished", said Siti Maimunah of the Indonesian Mining Advocacy Network.

With the identification of the correct suspect in this case of suspected corporate crime, it is hoped that public faith in the proactivity of Indonesian Police will improve. [ends]

Media contact: Imas Nurhayati (Tel: (+62 21) 794-1672 or (+62 21) 7919-3365)

Newmont manager named suspect

2 September 2004

Abdul Khalik, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

After more than a month of investigation, the National Police named on Wednesday the head of waste disposal at PT Newmont Minahasa Raya a suspect in a pollution case involving the United States-operated mining firm.

National Police detectives chief Comr. Gen. Suyitno Landung Sudjono said the manager, whose identity was withheld, was the person in charge of ensuring the company's waste disposal system was in accordance with Law No. 23/1997 on the environment.

The police announcement came a day after State Minister of the Environment Nabiel Makarim announced that a review by 16 scientists from several universities and independent organizations concluded that PT Newmont had violated regulations and contaminated Buyat Bay.

Under the law, an individual found guilty of deliberately contaminating the environment may face up to 10 years of imprisonment, or 15 years if the pollution causes the death or physical suffering of a human being.

Suyitno said the police would question the company official on Monday.

"We will begin with the official. If we find that he provided his superiors with periodical reports that they didn't act on, we will question them also," Suyitno said.

Article 46 of Law No. 23/1997 states that a company can be implicated in a pollution case if it is proven that a violation has been committed with the knowledge of the company. In that case, the top ranking official will be held responsible for the offense.

Palmer Situmorang, PT Newmont's lawyer, said his client was ready to comply with the police's summons at anytime.

"We will not evade the legal process. We are ready for questioning, either as a witness or suspect, and are set to prove in court that we are not guilty," he said.

Suyitno said a police investigation had found that PT Newmont had contaminated Buyat Bay and Buyat River with heavy metal substances.

"PT Newmont has deposited its tailings between 73 meters and 83 meters beneath the surface of the bay, while experts say the thermocline in Buyat Bay is located between 100 meters and 200 meters below sea level. The tailings can dissolve in water if they aren't disposed of under the thermocline layer," he said.

Police laboratory tests showed that the level of mercury and arsenic 40 meters below the surface of Buyat Bay water was 5.5 microgram/liter (ug/L) and 50.70 ug/L respectively, far above the standard of 1 u/L for mercury and 12 u/L for arsenic set by Decree No. 51/2004, which was issued by the Office of the State Minister of the Environment on seawater and river pollution standards.

Suyitno said it was also possible that the company had deposited of its waste in Buyat River, as the police test showed the content of mercury and arsenic there exceeded the standard set by the decree.

PT Newmont has repeatedly questioned the results of police laboratory tests, which have been contrary to tests run by other institutions.

The company said tests of 390 samples by PT ALS Indonesia showed a mercury level of only 0.055 u/L, while tests by the Office of the State Minister of the Environment showed a level of 0.059 u/L and Australia's Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO) found 0.005 u/L.

Government team finds Buyat Bay at risk

3 September 1, 2004

Muninggar Sri Saraswati, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Mining company PT Newmont Raya (PT NMR) violated regulations about how it disposed of its tailings, a team of experts from the Office of the State Minister for the Environment said.

The team urged relevant authorities to investigate the matter further.

State Minister for the Environment Nabiel Makarim, who earlier dismissed reports on pollution in the bay, laid blame with the U.S.-based mining firm, quoted the team's findings on Tuesday that the company violated regulations in implementing its submarine tailing disposal (STD) system at Buyat.

"The team also found that the thermocline in Buyat Bay is located between 100 and 300 meters below sea level and not 82 meters," Nabiel said.

The dumping of tailings, which contain heavy metal and chemical debris, under the thermocline layer 82 meters below sea level was a potential danger for Buyat Bay as substances could spread through the water due to earthquakes or other natural disasters, he added.

PT Newmont said it deposited its tailings 82 meters beneath the surface, while claiming that it had secured the environmental impact analysis (Amdal) required for companies before starting operations.

Nabiel said the team also recommended that the government further examine allegations of metal contamination in Buyat Bay through biomonitoring and human biomonitoring.

"If it is found that PT Newmont is involved in heavy metal pollution in Buyat Bay, it must be held responsible for all the damage," he added.

The mining company ceased operating in South Minahasa on Tuesday but has been asked to regreen its former opencast mine and monitor the environment for the next three years.

"The team has also asked the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources to amend its contract with PT Newmont by requiring it to monitor Buyat Bay for 30 consecutive years after the mine is closed," Nabiel said.

The minister said he would table the team's findings at ministerial meetings this week to determine the government's stance on the matter.

In a response, PT Newmont said the team's report did not reflect government policy on the case. "We shall seek clarification on the conclusions soon," it said in a statement.

The company insisted on denying that it had polluted Buyat Bay or created health problems for local residents.

Called the "Peer Review" team, it consisted of experts from the Technology Assessment and Application Agency (BPPT), the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI), Sam Ratulangi University, the University of Indonesia and other agencies.

The team was tasked with reviewing as many as 12 scientific reports on Buyat Bay, including those from Newmont, non-governmental organizations, the National Police and Nabiel's office, which arrived at different conclusions.

The team was different to a independent team set up by the central government to investigate allegations of pollution in the bay.

Separately, National Police chief Gen. Da'i Bachtiar said on Tuesday that the police would not hesitate to identify a party as suspect in the Buyat Bay case.

"We shall name suspects after obtaining sufficient evidence. However, we shall be very careful in declaring a company as the source of contamination," he said.

Da'i said the police would use their own laboratory test results as principal evidence in the investigation, while findings by other teams would used for comparative purposes.

Minister Says Newmont Violated Regulation

August 31, 2004


Environment Minister Nabiel Makarim says gold mining company PT Newmont Minahasa Raya (NMR) violated a regulation on hazardous waste disposal at its operations in North Sulawesi province.

The minister on Tuesday (31/8/04) said NMR had disposed of its tailings waste in Buyat Bay, Minahasa regency, without permission from his ministry.

"The conclusion is based on PT NMR's report on its Environment Management Plan and Environment Monitoring Plan, using arsenic, mercury and cyanide as parameters," he was quoted as saying by state news agency Antara.

He said the company could face criminal charges for violating Government Regulation No.18/1999 on the disposal of hazardous waste.

Makarim was speaking in Jakarta to about 40 representatives of various institutions that have been investigating claims that NMR polluted the bay and caused locals to suffer potentially fatal health problems.

The meeting's participants recommended further monitoring of marine life and the health of locals at Buyat Bay.

They also proposed the banning of the disposal of tailings at sea and recommended the Energy and Mineral Resources Ministry amend its agreements with Newmont.

Makarim said any efforts to deal with the Buyat Bay pollution must be focused on protecting the people's health and preserving the environment. "We don't want to get mixed up with political considerations or other issues," he said.

NMR, a unit of Denver-based Newmont Mining Corporation, has been accused of dumping lethal amounts of mercury and arsenic in the bay.

Analysts point out that modern multinational mining firms such as Newmont do not use mercury in their operations, whereas the heavy metal is used by tens of thousands of illegal miners across Indonesia.

NMR last week defended its policy of disposing of its treated tailings waste at sea, saying the practice was legally authorized by its Environmental Impact Analysis (Amdal).

The company said the Amdal was based on a thorough environmental impact assessment and was approved by the government. It said the authorization was supplemented by a sub-sea tailings permit signed by former environment minister Sonny Keraf on July 11, 2000. That permit required the submission of an Ecological Risk Assessment (ERA) within six months.

"PT NMR's sub-sea tailing system is fully permitted. PT NMR completed the ERA as requested by the Ministry of Environment and submitted the report to the State Ministry for Environmental Affairs on 11 January 2001 as stipulated in the permit," said NMR lawyer Palmer Situmorang.

The company said it conducts continual monitoring of the tailings placement and has found the environmental impacts are consistent with those predicted in the Amdal and they pose no threat to human health.

"The quality of the waters of Buyat meet or exceed standards for marine biota. PT NMR will continue environmental reclamation, management and monitoring until all success criteria agreed to in Mine Closure Plan are met," it added.

NMR has operated its Messel mine in Minahasa since 1996 and ceased ore mining activities in October 2001 due to depleted reserves within the contract area. Processing of ore from the stockpile is scheduled to end on August 31.

Court Case South Jakarta District Court on Tuesday gave Health Minister Achmad Sujudi one month to reach an out of court settlement with a group of Buyat Bay villagers accusing him of attempting to cover-up the extent of pollution in the area.

"Both the accused and plaintiff are given one month to come to terms through mediation in the first phase of the legal process," presiding judge Sudarjatno was quoted as saying by Antara.

The villagers want the minister to pay them Rp5 trillion (about $545 million) in compensation for illnesses they claim to have contracted as a result of the alleged pollution.

Several conservation and anti-mining groups claim the alleged pollution has caused at least 30 locals to die from Minamata disease - a severe form of mercury poisoning, named after a Japanese bay where the illness was first documented in the 1950s.

But Sujudi has said tests on the villagers showed no signs of Minamata disease. He said there was some mercury poisoning but it was certainly not hazardous.

The non-government organizations remain adamant that NMR is to blame for the deaths and are also attempting to sue the company on behalf of the villagers for Rp5 trillion.

The NGOs accuse Sujudi of a cover-up, alleging he failed to disclose the true extent of the "pollution caused by Newmont".

Discrepancies NMR last week questioned major discrepancies in the results of separate laboratory tests conducted by Indonesian police and international institutions on water and fish samples from Buyat Bay.

Although several government officials have said preliminary investigations and tests showed NMR is not responsible for the health problems suffered by locals, police said their separate tests showed bay is polluted with a high level of heavy metals.

In a press statement issued August 26, NMR the results of independent monitoring demonstrated the waters of Buyat Bay are not polluted by heavy metals.

"This information is on the results of testing and analysis by certified and independent laboratories, not by PT NMR internal testing. The results of those studies show that there is no heavy metal pollution in Buyat Bay. Heavy metal levels, to include mercury, arsenic and cyanide are below the limits for marine biota," said the statement.

NMR lawyer Situmorang said the company had not been officially informed of the results of testing by the police forensic laboratory, but had only seen them in local press reports.

"We cannot attest to the accuracy of press reports on the police forensic laboratory testing. We trust the professionalism of police to handle this case, but if the results as shown in press reports are correct, we must question the results of tests that vary so dramatically from those of certified laboratories. To resolve the apparent differences as shown in this chart, we recommend that a certified laboratory with national and international reputation be hired to conduct testing and evaluation," he said.

According to the data issued by NMR, tests by PT ALS Indonesia showed a mercury level of 0.055 microgram per liter (u/L) in Buyat Bay, while tests by the Environment Ministry showed a level of 0.059 u/L and Australia's Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO) showed 0.005 u/L.

The three results all indicate mercury levels in Buyat Bay are well below the amount of 1 u/L on seawater pollution standards.

But the tests conducted by police showed mercury levels ranging from 3.9 u/L to 5.5 u/L.

National Police chief General Dai Bachtiar on Friday stood by the results of the tests, saying they were carried out correctly and independently by "experts" from various branches of science.

The government has formed a joint team to investigate the alleged contamination. The team is expected to announce its results in October.

Newmont did not completely detoxify tailings: Police

August 30, 2004

Abdul Khalik, The Jakarta Post/Jakarta

A police investigator said on Sunday that PT Newmont Minahasa Raya had failed to thoroughly detoxify the tailings discharged into Buyat Bay, but he fell short of clearly stating that the mining company was responsible for the health problems in the area.

Comr. Sulistiandriatmoko, a member of the police investigation team, also said that the police would summon the company soon to explain the findings.

"According to our findings they (Newmont) were not able to detoxify their tailings thoroughly," said Sulistiandriatmoko.

He claimed that the material contained high levels of mercury and arsenic, which were later released into the environment.

Sulistiandriatmoko acknowledged, however, that Newmont had been trying to detoxify the tailings, but stated that they had not done it thoroughly.

Government Decrees No. 19/1999 on sea contamination and No. 82/2001 on water management and water contamination control stipulate that it is unlawful to dispose of toxic waste into the environment.

Contacted separately, Palmer Situmorang, Newmont's lawyer, disagreed with the findings by police investigators, and reiterated that his clients were ready to answer any questions.

"We have complied with all government regulations, including with the environmental impact analysis. We have submitted our reports periodically to the State Ministry for the Environment and we have not had any complaints so far from the ministry," Palmer told the Post.

Sulistiandriatmoko said that the police, who conducted their own study of the bay earlier this month, had to finish questioning several experts from various government agencies in the next two weeks before sending a summons letter to Newmont.

He said that police had summoned an expert on heavy metals from the environment ministry, an expert on oceanography from the Indonesian Institute of Science and a marine scientist from the Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries.

"We will ask them about levels of toxic material, the possibility of water from Totok Bay contaminating Buyat Bay and the level of heavy metal in the fish," Sulistiandriatmoko said.

He said that police had to question at least eight more witnesses in the next two weeks to complete the case file before questioning people from Newmont.

Newmont has made headlines since a report surfaced two months ago that fishermen in Buyat bay off of Minahasa, North Sulawsi were suffering from skin diseases that might have been caused by pollution.

The company has been operating in the region since 1996, and will cease production next month.

National Police Chief of Detectives Comr. Gen. Suyitno Landung Sudjono had repeatedly said that the bay had been contaminated after he examined the police laboratory test results.

The police said that their tests showed that the mercury content in the bay measured 5.5 microgram/liter (æ/L), 4 æ/L, and 3.9 æ/L in three samples taken from different locations.

Ministerial Decree No. 51/2004 on seawater pollution was recently passed and stipulates that the maximum legal mercury level is 1 æ/L.

However, Newmont questioned on Thursday the police laboratory test results, saying that they contradicted tests conducted by other institutions.

The company said tests of 390 samples by PT ALS Indonesia showed a mercury level of only 0.055 æ/L, while tests by the State Ministry of the Environment showed a level of 0.059 æ/L and the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO) from Australia found 0.005 æ/L.

Police are questioning dozens of people as witnesses, but have not named any suspects.

"It is possible that we will declare suspects in the case after questioning experts and people from Newmont," said Sulistiandriatmoko.

Police stand by Buyat Bay test results

Saturday, August 28, 2004

Abdul Khalik, The Jakarta Post/Jakarta

National Police chief Gen. Da'i Bachtiar said on Friday the police were sticking to their laboratory test results, which showed that Buyat Bay in Minahasa, North Sulawesi, was contaminated with heavy metals, despite a complaint from PT Newmont Minahasa Raya.

Da'i said the tests at the police's forensic lab were conducted by experts from various branches of science who were sworn to conduct their tasks correctly and independently.

"They can present their own findings, which could be different from our results, but as far as the legal process is concerned, only tests done by the police will be used," said Da'i.

He added that the police had made a legal record of every step in the testing process to ensure that their results could be used in court.

"The government has also established a joint team to investigate the contamination. We can talk about the differences in the teams' results later. But for now, we stand by our own findings," said Da'i.

PT Newmont Minahasa Raya, the only mining company disposing its tailings in the bay, questioned on Thursday the results of lab tests conducted by the police, as other tests by different institutions showed that the content of heavy metal in the bay was far below the dangerous level.

Newmont said tests of 390 samples by PT ALS Indonesia showed a mercury level of only 0.055 microgram/Liter (u/L) only, while tests by the Office of the State Minister of the Environment showed a level of 0.059u/L and Australia's Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO) found 0.005 u/L of mercury.

The three test results all showed mercury levels far below the standard of 1 u/L set by Ministerial Decree No. 51/2004 on seawater pollution standards, Newmont said.

On Wednesday, police said their lab tests showed mercury levels of 5.5 u/L, 4 u/L and 3.9 u/L in samples taken from separate locations in the bay.

Meanwhile, Newmont said police should clarify whether they had measured total mercury content or the dissolved mercury content in the bay, because the first methodology would produce far higher measurements than the latter.

The company said the 1 u/L standard set by the ministerial decree was clearly the level of dissolved mercury, not total mercury.

Coms. Sulistiandriatmoko, the lead investigator of the case, said police were well aware of the different methods and that police had measured the dissolved mercury.

"We are not that stupid. We measured the dissolved mercury, not the total mercury. I think they are just trying to distort the case," he said.

He revealed that while conducting field investigation at the bay, he found the water was discolored 20 meters from the surface because of a concentration of dissolved solids.

"We also discovered that Newmont disposed their tailings at 83 meters from the surface, because they mistakenly assumed that the thermocline was located 50 meters from the surface," Sulistiandriatmoko said.

The thermocline is the region that separates oxygen-rich surface water from oxygen-poor deep water.

He said the company made the erroneous assumption because it conducted the thermocline test only during the dry season, while the thermocline could be located at a deeper level in the rainy season.

According to Sulistiandriatmoko, the Research and Technology Agency later found that the thermocline of Buyat Bay was located 150 meters from the surface.

'Newmont ignored mercury warnings'

August 24, 2004

Sari P. Setiogi and Abdul Khalik, The Jakarta Post/Jakarta

Mining company PT Newmont Minahasa Raya ignored repeated warnings about the environmental dangers of its tailings, a marine toxic expert said on Monday.

"We conducted research in 1994 when the company had just started its exploration. Our research showed the mercury level found in fish in Buyat Bay reached 0.02 parts per billion (ppb)," said Rizald Max Rompas from Sam Ratulangie State University in Manado, North Sulawesi.

The normal mercury level in fish, according to Rizald, ranges between zero and 0.01 ppb.

Another study in 1998 -- two years after the company began its operations in Minahasa, North Sulawesi -- found the mercury levels in fish in Buyat Bay had increased to 0.1 ppb.

"We already warned the company and the local government about the contamination, but it is still in business," said Rizald.

"It (the mercury level) is getting higher and higher. The impact will not be seen now but in the next 10 to 20 years, as the mercury transforms into methylmercury. It could possibly become like Minamata disease if nothing is done now," the researcher warned.

However, Rizald said the symptoms exhibited by sick Buyat Bay residents pointed to arsenic contamination rather than mercury contamination.

"Arsenic is more reactive to the skin," he said.

Minamata disease is a neurological disorder caused by methylmercury poisoning, the more hazardous form of mercury.

A number of non-governmental organizations have accused PT Newmont Minahasa Raya of contaminating Buyat Bay with mercury. The company disposes of its tailings in the bay.

Laboratory tests conducted by the University of Indonesia, the Jakarta Health Agency and the National Police found that both local residents and the water of Buyat Bay contained elevated levels of mercury and arsenic, causing concern that residents were at risk of Minamata disease.

The company has denied the allegations, saying that its tailings are free from hazardous waste.

Rizald said it was possible the mercury in Buyat Bay came from Newmont. "Most likely the company is using mercury in its gold processing. Mercury can naturally be found in the soil, but not in the water. It is possible the mercury came from debris from the hill, but it would not be easy (to contaminate the water)."

Newmont has denied using mercury in its gold processing, saying it uses cyanide.

The Submarine Tailing Disposal (STD) system employed by Newmont is another source of controversy, said Rizald. The STD system is a technique for dumping tailings into the sea through a submerged pipe.

"Back in 1994, I had an argument with the AMDAL team about this STD. They said the tailings would be safely disposed under the thermocline layer, which could be found at a depth of 60 meters in the water," he said.

AMDAL is an environmental impact analysis, which new companies are required to complete before beginning their operations. However, in many cases companies have been allowed to begin operations despite environmental warnings contained in the AMDAL.

Most mining companies claim the natural thermocline barrier prevents tailings from resurfacing. The thermocline is a layer in the ocean where temperatures decrease rapidly, and which acts as a natural barrier.

"It is very much impossible to have a thermocline layer in water that is 60 meters deep, particularly in a tropical country like Indonesia," Rizald said.

Earlier in the day, the National Police announced they would continue their investigation into the Buyat case until they determined the source of the contamination and the parties responsible for this contamination.

National Police chief of detectives Comr. Gen. Suyitno Landung Sujono said that although the government had formed a joint team to conduct a thorough analysis of the bay, the police would continue with their own investigation.

"We don't stop an investigation just because the government forms a joint team. We have questioned several more witnesses, including experts and people from PT Newmont, to enable us to complete the case file," Suyitno said.

He said the police were now concentrating on determining the source of the contamination, before determining who was responsible for the contamination.

Former minister chides Newmont over Buyat case

August 26, 2004

Abdul Khalik, The Jakarta Post/Jakarta

Former state minister for the environment Sonny Keraf said on Wednesday that PT Newmont Minahasa Raya, the only mining company operating in Buyat Bay, North Sulawesi, had not met ecological risk assessment (ERA) requirements during his tenure.

Speaking after he was questioned by the National Police as a witness in the Buyat Bay contamination case, Sonny said he had sent a letter in 2001 requesting Newmont to abide by the standards set for heavy metal content in tailings.

The letter was sent to the U.S.-based company following several public reports that the bay was contaminated, Sonny added.

According to the former minister, at least 0.008 milligram/liter (mg/L) of mercury was found in every 5,000 cubic liters of tailings disposed by Newmont daily, as well as 0.5 mg/L of arsenic and 0.5 mg/liter of cyanide.

Sonny said he had also asked the company to conduct a study on its operations impact on the surrounding environment after many local residents complained about their deteriorating health and reported that various species of fish in the bay had died.

"I received the results (of Newmont's research) subsequently. However, I told police investigators (during the questioning) that I couldn't accept the results for two reasons -- the samples taken didn't cover a broad enough area, and the research was not conducted in both the dry and rainy seasons," he said.

Sonny then asked Newmont to conduct a joint study to verify the impacts of its mining operations at the bay. However, the research never took place, as the company continued to postpone it until he left his post in July 2001, when Megawati reshuffled the Cabinet after succeeding impeached president Abdurrahman Wahid.

The National Police have confirmed that Buyat Bay was contaminated, but are still investigating the source of the pollution, as they found neighboring Totok Bay was also contaminated. Totok Bay is separated from Buyat by a two-kilometer cape.

National Police chief of detectives Comr. Gen. Suyitno Landung Sudjono said on Wednesday that the mercury content at a depth of 40 meters in Buyat Bay was 0.0055 mg/L, while the mercury level at Totok Bay measured 0.007 mg/L.

Ministerial Decree No. 51/2004 on marine pollution standard stipulates that the levels of mercury, lead, cadmium and copper in seawater shall not exceed 0.001 mg/L, 0.008 mg/L, 0.001 mg/L and 0.001 mg/L, respectively.

"PT Newmont claimed that it disposed its tailings at a depth of 82 meters, but we found that water 40 meters from the sea surface was contaminated," said Suyitno.

He said police also found mercury in fish from Buyat Bay, with tissues from red grouper, tiger grouper and Napoleon fish showing mercury levels of 20.8 parts per billion (ppb), 15.7 ppb and 27.5 ppb, respectively.

"However, we cannot use levels of mercury in fish (as evidence), because we have no standard for this," Suyitno said.

Meanwhile, Newmont said the results of an environmental study by Rizald Max Rompas of Sam Ratulangi University showed that the mercury level in fish tissue was not high.

Instead, the company added, it was actually very low -- over 500 times below the World Health Organization's advisory limit for mercury in fish tissue. WHO sets a standard of 500 ppb for non-predatory fish and 1,000 ppb for predatory fish.

Kasan Mulyono, PT Newmont public relations manager, said in a press statement that a study by the company showed that fish from Buyat Bay was safe to eat, because they found mercury levels of only 190 ppb.

The Long Awaited Meeting Came Out With Another Wait.

Mining giant Newmont hears local villagers’ testimony

Press Release

24 September, 2004

“You cannot just go home to your country and leave everything behind and take no action.”
Buyat Bay women testifying, 21 September 2004.

After continued national and international public pressure, international mining giant, Newmont Mining Corporation (US), finally met face-to-face with community members of the small Indonesian coastal villages of Buyat and Ratatotok . On Tuesday, September 21, Newmont Mining Corporation executive Dr. Chris Anderson, head of external relationship and social responsibility, attended the long-awaited community meeting organized by a consortium of NGOs- local (Kelola), national (WALHI and JATAM) and international (Earthworks Action and Global Response) in support of the Buyat and Ratatotok communities. 90 local community members eager to finally be heard, attended this meeting held in Tomohon, Minahasa, on North Sulawesi. The meeting was delayed for nearly 4 hours until police permission could be obtained.

Testimony was given by 15 community members regarding their chronic health problems, dire economic situation from loss of livelihood as fishermen, and allegations of illegal land seizure, all arising since the start of PTNMR’s (Newmont Minahasa Raya mine) operation.

As a result of the multitude of problems facing them, Buyat and Ratatotok community members presented a list of demands to Newmont including environmental rehabilitation of the land and heavy metal clean-up along Buyat River and Buyat Bay, treatment for current health problems with long-term health coverage, compensation for the loss of land, assistance with economic recovery, evacuation and relocation of Buyat Bay community, and, most urgently, assistance with meeting basic needs such as food and potable water.

Dr. Chris Anderson agreed to present and discuss the meeting details, including the community demands, with Newmont CEO, Mr. Wayne Murdy. He stated that he would then return to North Sulawesi with Newmont’s (US) response and action plan. Also, Dr. Anderson agreed that Newmont would finance a public health evaluation to diagnose the unsolved health problems experienced by the residents of Buyat and Ratatotok in order to treat them appropriately.

The NGOs along with Buyat and Ratatotok attendees, however, underlined that this has not been a progress unless Newmont will take serious step into comprehensive resolution of all their appeals that have long been alleged as fake testimonies. Public must still wait whether the multinational gold company will comply with demand on responsibility since Chris must still consult his colleagues in Newmont Denver. As the uncertainty remains after the Monday meeting then Buyat people will still in await until Chris meet his promise to again come to Minahasa. As stated by one of the women testifying, “You cannot just go home to your country and leave everything behind and not take action.”

Media Contact : Aminuddin Kirom (JATAM), hp 08159290370


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