MAC: Mines and Communities

Indonesia update

Published by MAC on 2007-07-13

Indonesia update

13th July 2007

Proposed gold mines on the Indonesian islands of Sulawesi and Flores face opposition because of environmental concerns related to waste disposal.


The Indonesian government's Governor of North Sulawesi, Dr S H Sarundajang, has publicly declared that he only wants sustainable and eco-friendly development for the island. A gold mine is hoping to begin extraction in North Sulawesi, which would mean large quantities of waste from the process being dumped on land.

In 2006 the mine, under pressure from the concerned local community, decided to reverse a decision to dump its waste into the sea between the award-winning Bunaken National Park and the famous Lembeh Strait. North Sulawesi is rich in natural resources and its unique marine biodiversity ecosystem has been earmarked for application to UNESCO as a World Marine Heritage Area.

However, the decision by the mine company to dump on land does not satisfy Dr Sarundajang; he has highlighted his concern that the technology needed to monitor the environmental impact of the waste is not adequate. He also stressed how vital it is that the water table should not be contaminated.

The North Sulawesi Watersports Association (NSWA) welcomed the North Sulawesi Governor's statement. North Sulawesi is an earthquake-sensitive area and if the gold mine were to dump its waste on land an earthquake could trigger a landslide with potentially disastrous consequences. The NSWA is asking the Indonesian government not to grant any permits for the operation of the gold mine until the mine company has properly fulfilled the legal requirement, by having an independent, transparent and comprehensive EIA (Environmental Impact Assessment, known as an “AMDAL” in Indonesian) done.

To read more on this story, visit Alternatively contact Richard Parks at RP Marketing in the UK; email <>.

North Sulawesi Watersports Association (NSWA)

Mining proponent's misleading opinion

Opinion and Editorial - Adi Widyanto, Jakarta Post

7th July 2007

This newspaper, in the Opinion and Editorial page published 21 June 21 this year, ran an article written by Yolanda Torrisi, the publisher of Asia Miner Magazine in Melbourne. The article began by raising concern over protracted new mining legislation.

The main concern raised by the writer was the postponement of several mining companies' operations due to administrative conditions that were not yet fulfilled by project owners. The cases brought in by the writer included the Toka Tindung Mine in North Sulawesi operated by Archipelago Res, the subsidiary PT Meares Soputan Mining (MSM) and Dairi Zinc-lead project in North Sumatra owned by Herald Res. Both the owners are Australian companies.

The Toka Tindung gold mine is now facing severe problem since it has not received an environment certificate (EIA/Amdal) from the environment ministry. It has also failed to obtain the consent of local population and authorities. The writer's comment that Toka Tindung project is supported by local communities lacks verification from other independent sources.

I can only guess that this comment has been made based only on the company's press release. The fact is that the majority of the population around the mine living in Batuputih, Rindondoran, Pulisan, and Kalinaun villages rejected the project development.
Their rejection has been delivered to various institutions at the village, provincial and national levels based on concerns over environmental factors and the social security of the population around the mine.

Toka Tindung will be mined using the open pit method, which requires the conversion of large amounts of land without backfilling in the closure of mining. Together with the waste rock dump, the access road, the tailing dam, and the factory it occupies hundreds of hectares of land, which used to be productive plantations and provided livelihoods for the local population.

The bigger risk threatens coastal communities whose daily incomes are dependent on fishing activities in the nearby sea. More than 3,000 locals are involved in the fishing activities in the neighboring waters, using different sorts of equipment and different sizes of ship, which allows them to build fishing zones to prevent high competition. Fishing in this area has sustainably harvested marine resources for generations.

This established local production system is put in danger by the gold mining plan in terms of risk from the discharge of hazardous materials, both those materials put into the gold processing or those which originally come from the earth.

Among the major risks are Acid Rock Drainage (ARD) and heavy metals from the open pit, the tailing dam, and the waste rock dump. Gold deposits are often associated with sulfuric rocks such as pyrites, which can form acid once they have contact with water and oxygen.

The mining companies in Indonesia tend to believe that they can do everything at the cost of the people and environment once the contract of work has been secured from central government. Now if they encounter problems with wide-spread objections against their destructive mining practice and plan, they blame the critics for creating a nonconducive climate for foreign investment while in fact they are damaging the mining investment climate themselves by refusing to apply best mining practices.

Archipelago (MSM) therefore cannot be said to have "fully complied with due process, having spent much of 2006 revising comprehensive environmental impact analysis documents that meet all Indonesian and International banking requirements" as the author has written.

With all the risks that have been created for the local environment and community, Archipelago does not meet the provisions of the Equator Principle and the UNEP Statement by Financial Institutions on the Environment and Sustainable Development to which its creditor banks are bound.

Mining proponents should put this matter right by taking into consideration the entire background and root of the problems from various sources and not just blindly demanding special treatment and exemption from the Government of Indonesia.

Last but not least, the citation made by the author that mining has contributed 30 percent to the GDP of Laos is false and is a misleading statement since in fact it only contributes 6 percent. A World Bank study in 2006 predicted that the sector's contribution would increase to 10 percent of GDP by the fiscal year's end.

The writer is an environmental and mining monitor activist.

UCAN: Catholic priests reject gold-mine project, decry its environmental impact

7th June 2007


MAUMERE, Indonesia (UCAN) – Twenty-two Catholic priests have distributed a statement declaring their opposition to a gold-mining agreement signed by the district government where they serve on predominantly Catholic Flores Island.

The 19 members of the Larantuka diocesan clergy and 3 Divine Word priests signed the statement on May 10 in Lewoleba, capital of Lembata district in eastern Flores, 1,810 kilometers (about 1,120 miles) east of Jakarta. Lembata deanery, an administrative grouping of parishes in the district, has 29 priests in all.

They sent the signed statement to district head Andreas Duli Manuk and copies to national Energy and Natural Resources Minister Purnomo Yusgiantoro, East Nusa Tenggara Governor Piet Alexander Tallo and Bishop Fransiskus Kopong Kung of Larantuka. Another 12 copies went to diocesan commissions and local governmental officials. Flores is part of East Nusa Tenggara.

"Today, May 10, 2007, we, Catholic priests in Lembata deanery, are taking a stand against the gold mine operation plan," the statement declared. It cited a working contract between the Lembata government and P.T. Merukh Enterprise Cooper (MEC) to explore for and mine gold.

The district government announced March 7 that gold mining operations would focus on the three subdistricts of Buyasuri, Lebantukan and Omesuri.

The priests said they took a collective stand after "hearing about the advantages and disadvantages of the gold mine operation from an nongovernmental organization (NGO) named Lembata Center on Jan. 10, 2007, and the anxiety of parish priests serving in the areas where gold mining would be conducted."

The statement also cited reports of local people demonstrating against the mining plan.

Media first reported in February that local people opposed the plan because the 46,000 hectares covered by the mining agreement includes five villages with a combined population of more than 10,000 people.

The priests expressed their regret that the government did not talk to people about the plan before making a decision that affects their lives.

"We are siding with these small people who may lose their land, livelihood, houses and 'a certainty of life,'" the priests wrote.

"We will disseminate our stand simultaneously in our parishes," they said, adding that they would survey the mining locations.

They recommended that the district government concentrate on the potential of farming, tourism, and marine and home industries for economic development.

Divine Word Father Marcelinus Vande Raring, a signatory, told UCA News on May 13 that the gold mining would destroy the local environment. "It will also affect the lives of people living around the area," he asserted.

Other people from the district, including a couple now working in the provincial capital of Kupang, also told UCA News why they reject the plan.

Yohanes Stefanus Kotan, a Catholic, suggested that the district government should take local people's complaint into consideration, "because every policy it takes without considering local people's demands is a repressive policy."

According to the law lecturer at Nusa Cendana University in Kupang, the district government should have involved all social sectors since the beginning of the plan.

"The district government took a wrong step. It did not involve local people," agreed Urbanus Ola Hurek, who teaches on the social and political sciences faculty of Catholic University of Widya Mandira, also in Kupang.

He cautioned that this issue might become "a time bomb" that could endanger puts the relations between the district government and local people "if it is not mediated wisely and rightly."

Thomas Ola Langoday, another native, said: "The gold mine operation plan should be for the welfare of local people, but the district government seems to have a different idea. If the district government only thinks about business, then local people will suffer more."

Andreas Nula Liliweri, the deputy district head for Lembata, told UCA News on May 25 that those who reject the gold mining plan do not understand the economic situation in the district. "Local people are living in the circle of poverty," he said.

"The district government will not let its people suffer," he asserted. According to him, more than 10,000 would be relocated from the five affected villages to nearby areas.

MEC has begun its exploratory mining activities in Lembata after receiving the license for this from the district government.


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