MAC: Mines and Communities

Retort to Newmont on Buyat Bay, Indonesia from Buyat Residents

Published by MAC on 2004-05-13

Retort to Newmont on Buyat Bay, Indonesia from Coastal Buyat Residents

13th May 2004

ATTENTION: Mr. Doug Hock Director of Public Affairs and Communication Newmont Mining Corporation

Dear Sir,

I'm writing to express our negative response to the letter you sent us in reply to the action alert letter regarding the problems which have occurred at Buyat Bay, the location where your company operates and dumped its waste into our bay. We would like to share the facts about what our people have been dealing with.

It is undisputed that PT NMR has built a clinic and village government office, and planted mangrove seeds in Ratatotok village which resides around the mining area. However, these don't give any solution to the problems at Buyat Bay where your company threw waste. In Buyat (a different location to Ratatotok), people are facing a health crisis with skin diseases and tumors on the entire body that are also found on Kerapu fish, a coral-occupant species. Unfortunately, in the meantime, PT NMR has yet to give any explanation about what may have caused the sickness, nor has it provided free health care to us, the residents of Buyat Bay. Our local history record says that the territory has never been hit by such diseases, nor have fish either, until after Newmont threw tailings. Sir, you must know that here, in Buyat beach, a baby was born carrying a skin disease. One doctor said it could be restored to health with therapy, but so far none of them has been able to cure the illness that remains on her body.

Furthermore, it is so sad that you have taken the report of the National Commission for Human Rights (Komnas HAM) investigating team as a defense because they never actually met the Buyat people victimized by PT NMR tailings. Adults and children (24 in total) had been waiting for the team to show the tumors on their skins.

In our opinion, the symptoms are absolutely strange illnesses because no resident of Buyat surroundings has suffered from this disease prior to PT NMR operating. Lately, when the gold mining company began operating and dumped the waste into Buyat Bay, many people started to get sick. This also happened to the fish that people used to catch.

We regret that now we must face the reality of losing our livelihood because we catch much less fish than ever. This is what happened after PT NMR put tailings into our sea that made the sea bottom much shallower and destroyed reefs where fish belong. PT NMR behaves irresponsibly for not restoring our failing economy with wise measures, and otherwise put us into new trouble by providing credits from bank that we barely can pay back.

You wrote that we, Buyat people, have practiced unsustainable fishing and destroyed the coral reefs in North Sulawesi as a result. I want you to make it clear on which location this exploitative fishing occurred? Coastal Buyat fishers never use such destructive means, nor have we demolished the reefs that became our income source. By generalizing the Buyat territory to that of North Sulawesi you might try to fool the whole world that it was we who destroyed the bay with the unsustainable fishing story you made up.

Thus, we urge PT NMR to stop telling lies to Buyat people and the world's citizens with your false remarks.

Buyat beach, 13 May 2004

Mansur Lombonaung (Representative of Coastal Buyat Residents)

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