MAC/20: Mines and Communities

Mining firms urged to stop STD disposal

Published by MAC on 2003-04-28

Mining firms urged to stop STD disposal

By Wahyoe Boediwardhana, The Jakarta Post

28 April 2003

Denpasar, Bali - Mining companies across the Asia-Pacific region are continuing to use the submarine tailing deposit mining system, which will cost countries both environmentally and socioeconomically, a noted environmentalist has said. Former environment minister Emil Salim said Indonesia was unable to deal with the environmental hazards posed by the submarine tailing deposit mining system.

Emil was speaking at a five-day meeting of the World Bank Extractive Industries Review (EIR) in Nusa Dua, Bali.

The meeting aims to establish policy guidelines to make the mining industry more environmentally friendly.

Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) were invited, but at least 12 NGOs walked out of the meeting on Sunday after the EIR released a draft of the guidelines ahead of the meeting's conclusion. NGOs said the draft favored mining companies at the expense of the environment and indigenous people. Emil blasted mining companies' continued use of the submarine tailing disposal system.

"Most companies or parties operating in Indonesia's mining industry use this system, which is clearly degrading the marine and coastal environment," he told EIR participants.

The system is the most preferred waste disposal procedure in regions with large-scale mining operations and rich marine biodiversity, crucial for global marine conservation, such as in Southeast Asia and South Pacific. Emil said that the disposal system was seriously damaging Indonesia's tropical marine life, marine resources and its ecosystem.

"The most important problem is how to convince our government to strictly regulate the system and to enforce the law because almost two-thirds of Indonesia consists of water and oceans," Emil said.

Submarine tailing disposal is one of the main subjects being discussed at the World Bank-initiated meeting, which began on Saturday and closes on Wednesday.

The five-day meeting has brought together stakeholders from civil society, governments, the industries as well as the World Bank Group to discuss oil, gas and mining issues. The framework for this discussion is the globally agreed consensus to pave the way for sustainable development in the 21st century.

The World Bank initiated the Extractive Industries Review and consultative process to obtain and understand the views of stakeholders about the best future role of the World Bank Group in the extractive industries if it is to promote sustainable development and poverty alleviation.

Currently, the World Bank Group is supporting worldwide governments, especially developing ones, and industries to develop extractive industry sectors. On the other hand, a group of international organizations are calling on the World Bank Group to divest itself from extractive industry projects, based on the observation that the exploitation of oil, gas and mining in developing countries is not compatible to the Group's mission to eradicate poverty.

"Exploitation of oil, gas and mining resources under various conditions can result in a multitude of social problems and serious environmental degradation," the organizations said in a statement.

Citing an example, they said mining companies, especially those operating in small and remote islands in Indonesia, often dump waste directly into the sea without processing it.

Benyamin Kahn, the director for APEX Environmental Indonesia Oceanic Cetacean Program, said that the agency's study found the majority of fish taken from waters around Sumbawa, West Nusa Tenggara and North Sulawesi were contaminated with mining disposal waste.

"Japan has rejected fish exports because of chemical contamination," the study revealed.

Emil said both governments and industries should be held responsible for preserving the environment.

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