MAC: Mines and Communities

Newmont's Submarine Tailings Disposal Broke the Law

Published by MAC on 2004-08-05

Newmont's Submarine Tailings Disposal Broke the Law


No More STD Application in Indonesia

5 August 2004

Jakarta - The controversy of Buyat Bay pollution has now entered a new stage as PT Newmont Minahasa Raya's (North Sulawesi) permission for Submarine Tailings Disposal (STD) is in dispute. It has been discovered that Newmont does not meet all the criterias set by the Ministry for the Environment on the pre-conditions for STD. The failed criteria were quoted in the letter by the Minister of Environment No B-1456/Bappedal/07/2000, four years after Newmont first dumped its 2000 tones of tailings per day into the bay.

This American based company was allowed to dump tailings into the sea according to an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA). But after the issuance of Government Decree no 19/1999 on Marine Pollution and Destruction Mitigation, Newmont must obtain the Minister's permission to maintain STD practice. Prior to obtaining a permanent permission, that requires an Ecological Risk Assessment (ERA) study, Newmont was first granted with a temporary permission in 2000. However, so far the government have never approved the result of Newmont's ERA study because there is still much data inconsistency and analysis inaccuracy.

The STD at Buyat Bay has long been predicted to result in many serious problems for the environment. Newont's EIA document stated that this tailing dumping would result in a decrease in marine water quality and affect the submarine habitat due to tailings accummulation. Siti Maimunah of Mining Advocacy Network (JATAM) said, "The NMR's tailing dumping has broken the law for not submitting with the regulation". Moreover, STD is a controversial waste dumping method that the World Bank's Extractive Industries Review was critical of. It recommended the Bank should follow the precautionary principle and refrain from financing mining projects that propose STD because of the risk to marine ecosystems.

Giving these points, Raja Siregar of WALHI commented, "Minister (Env) Nabil Makarim has been found doing neglicance to this marine environment destruction from STD practice. Furthermore, Nabiel also let Newmont break the regulations."

NMR is the first mining company in Indonesia to dump its waste via STD. In 1996 Newmont had dumped 2,000 tones of tailings per day into Buyat Bay, while since 1999 it has dumped 110,000 tones per day in Senunu Bay of Sumbawa island. Newmont's application of STD has resulted in serious health impacts to humans, and swelling on fish. This method of waste disposal, however, is proposed for use by another five mining companies, who are Asia Pacific Nickel/ BHP (Australia) in Papua, Weda Bay Nikel (Canada) and Ingold (Canada) in Maluku, PT. Meares Soputan Mining (Australia) in North Sulawesi and PT Jember Metal & Banyuwangi Minerals in East Java.

Regarding te investigation team established by the government to find out the source of pollution of Buyat Bay, the former Minister of Environment Dr. Sonny Keraf stipulated, "this research must be conducted objectively, involving all stakeholders' participation, and if the study finds NMR guilty then this should be followed up with a sentence." Sonny also added "Afterward, local people must acquire more benefit from any natural resources utilization, and shouldn't only be the victims".

With regard to the STD controversy, Dr. Sonny Keraf stated firmly, "There can't be any Submarine Tailing Disposal application in Indonesia. This method has neglected the precautionary principle and results in many troubles to coastal communities".

Considering the above, we declare:

1. The Submarine Tailing Disposal of PT NMR has broken the law for violating goverment regulations.

2. The Indonesian Ministry of Environment was neglicant in law for the violation conducted by PT NMR.

3. Newmont's operation at Buyut Bay should be ended immediately and the government must enact a penalty for the legal violation and impacts of its STD operations.

4. IN order to respect the precautionary principle, the government must stop the application of STD at the Newmont Batu Hijau Mine, Sumbawa.

5. The Government should cancel all mining operations wishing to apply STD method.

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