MAC: Mines and Communities

Rights groups seek probe into death of Indonesian official opposed to gold mine

Published by MAC on 2021-07-03
Source: Benar News, VOI, Jatam

Helmud Hontong, 58, was deputy head of the Sangihe Islands.

Indonesian human rights and environmental groups are calling for further investigation into the death of Helmud Hontong, a local government official who had voiced opposition to a Canadian-owned gold mine in Sangihe Islands, North Sulawesi province.

“We call on the government to conduct a further investigation so that the growing speculation can be put to an end,” Beka Ulung Hapsara, a member of the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM), told BenarNews.

In April, Helmud sent a letter to Arifin Tasrif, the minister of Energy and Mineral Resources, expressing his opposition to a mining permit granted to PT Tambang Mas Sangihe (TMS). Canadian Baru Gold controls a 70 percent stake in the Sangihe gold project, with three Indonesian companies holding the remaining 30 percent interest, according to the company’s website.

See also:

2020-10-18 Saving the Mahakam River in Indonesia

2019-11-28 Indonesia watchdogs denounce arrest of four mining activists


Rights Groups Seek Probe into Death of Indonesian Official Opposed to Mine

Arie Firdaus


Indonesian human rights and environmental groups are calling for further investigation into the death of a local government official who had voiced opposition to a Canadian-owned gold mine on his island after police said he died of natural causes.

Helmud Hontong, 58, the deputy head of the Sangihe Islands, a regency made up of islets in North Sulawesi province, died aboard a Lion Air flight from Bali to Makassar on June 9 after reportedly vomiting blood. Police on Monday said an autopsy they had conducted showed Helmud died of complications from a chronic illness.

Beka Ulung Hapsara, a member of the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM), said the central government in Jakarta should allow an impartial team to investigate the death.

“We call on the government to conduct a further investigation so that the growing speculation can be put to an end and there’s clarity whether or not he died naturally,” Beka Ulung told BenarNews.

The official’s sudden death aboard the domestic flight has sparked questions about whether foul play was involved and if it was tied to Helmud’s opposition to a decision by the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources to grant the Vancouver-based company, Baru Gold Corp., permission to operate a gold mine on about half of Sangihe Island.

Merah Johansyah, coordinator of the Mining Advocacy Network (JATAM), an activist group, said Komnas HAM should participate in an investigation into Helmud’s death.

“We appreciate the police’s swift announcement of the autopsy results, but there’s still speculation among the public,” Merah told BenarNews.

“We are urging an investigation by other institutions, including Komnas HAM,” he said. “He was a high-profile figure who was opposed to a mining permit, so it’s natural that the public makes assumptions.”

In April, Helmud sent a letter to Arifin Tasrif, the minister of Energy and Mineral Resources, expressing his opposition to the mining permit granted to PT Tambang Mas Sangihe (TMS).

Baru Gold controls a 70 percent stake in the Sangihe gold project, with three Indonesian companies holding the remaining 30 percent interest combined, according to the company’s website.

The company, formerly known as East Asia Minerals, obtained an exploration license in 1997. In January 2021, the ministry extended the permit, which will remain valid until 2054.

In his letter, Helmud alleged that a mining operation on Sangihe was against the law because it is a small island of 73,000 hectares (180,000 acres), making it vulnerable to environmental destruction.

The letter, copies of which circulated on social media, was confirmed by the energy ministry on Sunday.

Data on the ministry’s website show that the company’s operation on Sangihe covers 42,000 hectares (104,000 acres), or about half the island.

Merah said the permit’s issuance potentially violated a 2014 law on the management of coastal areas and small islands, which bans mining on islets.

“There must be a further investigation into the mining permit issued in Sangihe,” he said.

Guspardi Gaus, a lawmaker from the National Mandate Party, made a similar call.

“If irregularities are found, law enforcement authorities must investigate,” he told an online discussion, referring to the granting of the permit.

Ridwan Djamaluddin, the director general of minerals and coal at the energy ministry, said officials there were considering Helmud’s opposition to the mining permit.

“The directorate general is scheduling a meeting with authorities in the Sangihe Islands regency to discuss PT TMS’s mining activities,” he said in a statement on Sunday.

BenarNews could not immediately reach the company for comment.

A spokesman for TMS, Bob Priya Husada, said it would go ahead with its operation on Sangihe, the Tirto news website reported on Tuesday.

“It is not explicitly stated that there should be no mining operations under the law,” Bob told Tirto.

Bob said the company had conducted feasibility studies and that its activities were in line with a local bylaw.

“Mining activities in certain areas that are included in the PT TMS concession are allowed,” he said.

Autopsy results

Helmud’s death has reminded Indonesians of the 2004 death of a prominent human rights activist, Munir Said Thalib, who was killed by poisoning while traveling on a Garuda Indonesia flight to the Netherlands. An autopsy showed that Munir had ingested arsenic poison while on the plane.

An off-duty Garuda pilot who was on the same flight with Munir, Pollycarpus Budihari Priyanto, was found guilty of lacing Munir’s drink with arsenic. Pollycarpus was sentenced to 14 years in prison, but judges found the motive to be personal.

On Monday, the North Sulawesi provincial police announced that an autopsy conducted by its forensic department had found no traces of poison in Helmud’s body.

“Based on the preliminary results of yesterday’s autopsy, it is certain that no poison or other suspicious material was found,” Brig. Gen. Andi Rian Djajadi, the director of the general crimes office at National Police headquarters in Jakarta, told BenarNews.

Helmud had a history of high-blood pressure and heart problems, Andi said, citing information from the dead man’s family.

“Based on the results of yesterday’s autopsy, no poison or other suspicious substances were found,” Andi told BenarNews.

However, he added, police had taken organ samples for further investigation and results were expected in about two weeks.

Herdawati Greida Simon, a spokeswoman for the Helmud family, said he suffered from diabetes, but it was under control and he had his medicines with him at all times.

“The deceased did have diabetes mellitus, but he had it regularly checked,” the Kumparan news site quoted Herdawati, who is Helmud’s niece, as saying.

“His glucose numbers were not too high. In February, he had a check-up at the Gatot Soebroto Hospital (in Jakarta), the results were normal,” Herdawati said, adding that Helmud’s death was “ordained by God.”

After The Death Of Vice Regent Helmud Hontong, PKS Party Legislator Urges The Government To Evaluate Sangihe Island Mining Permits


14 Jun 2021

JAKARTA - Commission VII of the House of Representatives highlighted the odd death of the Deputy Regent of Sangihe, Helmud Hontong, on a plane while traveling home from Bali to Manado via Makassar.

Member of Commission VII of the Indonesian House of Representatives (DPR) Mulyanto asked the Indonesian Police to investigate the connection between the mysterious death of the deputy regent and a letter requesting the cancellation of the permit to PT. Mas Sangihe Mine (TMS), which he proposed to the Minister of Energy and Mineral Resources.

Mulyanto assesses that this case cannot be viewed as an ordinary event, because it involves public figures who are struggling to defend the interests of the community.

"Although we don't know for sure the results of the police autopsy regarding the cause of the death of the Deputy Regent of Sangihe", said Mulyanto, Monday, June 14.

The PKS Party politician also urged the Minister of Energy and Mineral Resources, Arifin Tasrif, to immediately take quick steps to evaluate the gold mining permit on the island of Sangihe.

"The mining permit granted for 42.000 hectares, more than half the area of Sangihe Island, deserves public attention", he continued.

Mulyanto assessed that the decision of the Deputy Regent of Sangihe asking the Minister of Energy and Mineral Resources to review the permit was very appropriate. Considering that the area of the mining permit granted is almost 50 percent of the area of Sangihe Island.

"Therefore, the Minister of Energy and Mineral Resources must evaluate the extent of the mining permit granted", he said.

The deputy chairman of the PKS Party faction of the DPR RI also asked the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources to review the environmental and mining safety aspects in accordance with existing laws and regulations so that they can truly protect the people on Sangihe Island.

"Can a small island like this be granted an industrial mining permit of that size without damaging the safety of the environment and society?", he asked.

Mulyanto continued, the permit should only be granted for an area that is really prospective to be mined, from an economic, social, and environmental perspective. Not half the area of Sangihe Island.

"This is an exaggeration. How can the people of Sangihe island live properly if half of the area is mining? We can't imagine it", said Mulyanto.

To note, PT Tambang Mas Sangihe (PT TMS) has obtained the necessary permits to carry out mining activities, both mining permits from the Central Government, as well as environmental documents and spatial suitability from the Regional Government.

The permit from the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources was granted on January 29, 2021, for 42.000 hectares. Meanwhile, the area of Sangihe Island is only 73.700 hectares.

The refusal of the Deputy Regent of Sangihe for the permit issued by the Minister of Energy and Mineral Resources in the form of writing an official letter has been reported to have been received by the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources.

There Is No Justification For Mining On The "Small" Island Of Sangihe


11 Jun 2021

JAKARTA - The plan for large-scale gold mining on Sangihe Island, North Sulawesi has become a polemic. The project not only threatens the lives of the Sangihe residents, but also threatens the extinction of endemic birds.

Residents, together with the late Deputy Regent of Sangihe Helmud Hontong voiced their rejection of Pulau Kecil as a mine. It is known that Hemud Hontong died suddenly while traveling on the Bali-Makassar route on Wednesday, June 2021.

In the middle of the trip, Helmud, who boarded the Lion JT-740 plane, seemed to need medical help. His aide, Harmen Rivaldi Kontu confirmed that Helmud had felt dizzy, and blood was coming out of his mouth, then his nose.

In fact, all passengers have undergone health checks according to procedures. In fact, all of them were confirmed negative for COVID-19.

"Lion Air flight JT-740 is well prepared. All passengers and flight crew have undergone a COVID-19 health check which was declared negative and before entering the aircraft (while at the departure terminal) the health test result letter has been verified by a medical officer from the agency authorities," said Corporate Communications Strategic of Lion Air, Danang Mandala Prihantoro, quoted by

An investigation into Helmud's death is urgent

Regarding Helmud's death, the National Coordinator of the Mining Advocacy Network (Jatam), Merah Johansyah Ismail, urged law enforcement officials to investigate Helmud's death. Merah said there were irregularities related to this tragic event.

Helmud, said Merah, was not sick. Moreover, Helmud is known as a person who dared to refuse the granting of a mining business permit (IUP) extension contract for the gold mining company PT Tambang Mas Sangihe (TMS).

“Hopefully it can be investigated, find out more about what kind of death this was because it was sudden. Some information stated that he was not sick, suddenly the news was heard," said Merah as quoted by

Merah also added that before his death Helmud had rejected a mining company whose capital was held by Canadian investors since 2017. Helmud's latest action was to send a letter to the Minister of Energy and Mineral Resources Arifin Tasrif dated April 28, 2021.

In the letter, Helmud asked the Minister of Energy and Mineral Resources to consider canceling the PT. TMS whose total project reaches 42 thousand hectares. The mining permit is stated in the letter from the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources Number 163 K/MB.04/DJB/2021 which was issued on January 29, 2021.

There is no justification for mining activities on a small island

Helmud's refusal is a form of fairness. Moreover, the mining permit is contrary to Law (UU) Number 1 of 2014 concerning amendments to Law Number 27 of 2007 concerning the management of coastal areas and Small Islands.

In the law that regulates the use of small islands, only nine types of interests have been prioritized. These interests include conservation, marine cultivation, education and development, and so on.

Mining activities are prohibited because they can have a negative impact on life on small islands. Environmental observer who is also the Director of the Institute for Living Life (LOH), Yani Sagaroa agrees with this.

According to him, there is no justification for mining activities on small islands. If enforced, the destructive force of mining activities is much more complex than other environmental activities.

So, the entire ecosystem in Sangihe will be in danger of being lost, even damaged. Not only for rare species of flora and fauna (one of which is Sariwang Sangihe), but the people of Sangihe are threatened with their lives and livelihoods.

Not without reason Yani said that. The reality is that the tailings (waste) handling technology system in Indonesia is still inadequate. Whatever the system, the handling of tailings--whether the disposal of waste into the sea commonly known as Submarine Tailings Disposal (STD) or the disposal of waste into the deep sea, Deep Sea Tailings Placemet (DSTP)--both have great risks and are harmful to the environment. live in Sangihe.

“Moreover, the tailings handling technology system is still not considered safe. Well, related to regulations, there is already a law on the management of coastal and small islands. I don't think it's justified to include it in Law 32 of 1999 on Environmental Protection and Management (PPLH),” said Yani Sagaroa who is also a former WALHI National Councilor to VOI, Friday, June 11.

“In connection with the law, I even urge all stakeholders in Sangihe – from the community to the local government to reject the existence of a mine in Sangihe. Because it will have big consequences for the environment,” he added.

Yani emphasized that what he said was in line with what President Joko Widodo said when he chaired a limited meeting to discuss the report of the COVID-19 Handling Committee and National Economic Recovery at the Merdeka Palace, Jakarta, November 16, 2020. Meanwhile, Jokowi said that the highest law is the safety of the people.

"I want to emphasize that people's safety is the highest law. During this pandemic we have decided on social restrictions, including the dispersal of crowds," said Jokowi.

Even in mining in Sangihe, the government is required to maintain the safety of the people, especially the people of Sangihe. For this reason, mining permits should have been rejected. Because it not only affects the coastal ecosystem, but also affects the economic management ecosystem of the Sangihe residents who live from natural resources.

"Because it has an impact, human safety must be prioritized. Don't just look at it from an economic perspective. If we look at it only from an economic perspective, in our opinion it is very narrow. Because the economic value of the entire ecosystem in Sangihe is much more meaningful which is able to provide a sustainable life for the surrounding community,” concluded Yani Sagaroa.


January 7, 2021

Vancouver, British Columbia, Baru Gold Corporation (the “Company”) is pleased to announce that the Work Plan & Budget Rencana Kerja & Angaran Belanja (“RKAB”) for PT Tambang Mas Sangihe (“TMS”) for 2021 has been formally approved by the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources.

The RKAB includes planning and proposed expenditures for construction, mining, production, community programs, environmental rehabilitation, and geological and geotechnical investigations for 2021.

The RKAB is a formal annual requirement for all mining concessions in Indonesia, whether in the exploration or production phase, and the approval is a prerequisite to any activities being carried out in that particular year

Baru Gold CEO, Mr Terry Filbert, commented, “The Company wishes to thank the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources for their very prompt approval of the 2021 RKAB. While the Company awaits the upgrade of our licence to production status, this approval demonstrates strong support and commitment to the development of the project by the Indonesian government.”

The Company also announces that it has granted an aggregate amount of 3,125,000 stock options to officers, directors, employees and consultants of the Company in accordance with the provisions of the Company's stock option plan. The grant of the options is subject to the approval of the TSX Venture Exchange. Each option entitles the holder to purchase one common share of the company at an exercise price of $0.155 for a five-year period.


The Sangihe gold-silver project is located on the island of Sangihe off the northern coast of Sulawesi and has an existing National Instrument 43-101 inferred mineral resource of 114,700 indicated and 105,000 inferred ounces of gold as reported in the Company's "Independent Technical Report on the Mineral Resource Estimates of the Binebase and Bawone Deposits, Sangihe Project, North Sulawesi, Indonesia" dated May 30, 2017. Only 10% of the gold bearing area has been explored. Readers are cautioned that mineral resources that are not mineral reserves do not have demonstrated economic viability. The Company's 70-percent interest in the Sangihe-mineral-tenement contract of work ("CoW") is held through PT. Tambang Mas Sangihe (“TMS”). The remaining 30-percent interest in TMS is held by three Indonesian corporations. The term of the Sangihe CoW agreement is for 30 years upon commencement of the production phase of the project.

The Company intends to proceed to production without the benefit of first establishing mineral reserves supported by a feasibility study. The Company cautions readers that any production decision made by the Company will not be based on a NI 43-101 feasibility study of mineral reserves that demonstrates economic and technical viability and as such, there may be involved increased uncertainty and various technological and economic risks such as the interpretation of drill results; the geology, grade and continuity of mineral deposits; the possibility that future exploration, development or mining results will not be consistent with our expectations; commodity and currency price fluctuation; failure to obtain adequate financing; regulatory, recovery rates, refinery costs, and other relevant conversion factors, permitting and licensing risks; general market and mining exploration risks and production and economic risks related to design and engineering, manufacturing, technological processes and test procedures and the risk that the project’s output will not be salable at a price that will cover the project’s operating and maintenance costs.


Baru Gold Corporation (formerly East Asia Minerals) is building Indonesia’s new gold producer. We are a dynamic junior gold developer with NI43-101 gold resources in Indonesia, one of the top 10 gold producer countries in the world.  In Q3 2019, Baru Gold reached a milestone, securing the AMDAL environmental permit and paid dead-rent tax on its Sangihe Gold open pit heap leach operation and awaits its Operation Licence to advance the project to construction and production in 2021.

Our team of mining and finance professionals are based both in North America and locally in Indonesia and boasts extensive experience in starting and operating small-scale gold and coal assets. With over $5.5 million in cash and strong retail and institutional shareholders support, Baru Gold is well positioned to take advantage of the increased interest in gold and precious metals with both exploration upsides and operation cashflow in 2021.

Frank Rocca, BAppSc. (Geology), MAusIMM, MAIG, Chief Geologist of Baru Gold Corp. is the Qualified Person as defined under NI 43-101 who has reviewed and approves the content of this release.


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