MAC: Mines and Communities

Mining proponent's misleading opinion

Published by MAC on 2007-07-07

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.

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