MAC: Mines and Communities

Archipelago in the mud

Published by MAC on 2007-03-13

Archipelago in the mud

Not holding a production permit - yet Meares Soputan Mining is already under suspicion of having caused a mud flood

From statement by Friends of Lembeh-Pulisan-Bangka

13th March 2007

In the morning of Sunday March 11th, 2007 the coastal inhabitants and fishermen of Batuputih – Rinondoran and Kalinaun woke up and believed they were in a dream. Their sea which they know to be crystal blue had changed into a red muddy pond, dead fish lying all over the beach. The inhabitants of the village Rinondoran had to leave their houses in a rush which got flooded by muddy water, half a meter deep. A bridge was torn away as well as a cow. In Likupang township the water coming downhill was so horrendous that the concrete bridge of kampong Ambon broke into pieces. The night before it had rained only a little though - nothing that comes even near to the floods of February 2006 which after days of rain had caused landslides and bridges to break. And then there is this very fine mud, several centimeters deep, which smells metallic, strange, not like after flooding.

It didn’t take the people long to utter suspicions that this was a man-made environmental catastrophe, caused by the Australian mining company, Archipelago Resources * and their Indonesian branch, Meares Soputan Mining, that currently constructs an open pit gold mine in the hills above. The working contract worth 20 mio. USD to construct the dumping ponds and dams was granted to Bakrie constructions which belongs to the Indonesian minister Aburizal Bakrie. This company is responsible for the hot mud that has been flooding the region Sidoarjo in East Java over the past few months, destroying the homes of thousands, robbing them of their livelihoods. Up to now they demonstrate, in vain, for their rights of compensation.

March 11th was a Sunday, and local people accuse the company of having released the earth they dug out of the rock waste dumping sites to be into the rivers during the night, hoping to do this unnoticed. The company which is currently in a desperate construction rush in order not to loose the trust of the investors not even holds a production permit, in Indonesian language called AMDAL (EIA) which has to be issued by the Ministry For Environment and is a precondition under Indonesian law to operate. In the beginning of February 2007 the governor of the Province of North Sulawesi had refused his approval of the EIA on the grounds that the goldmine which is situated on the narrow peninsula of North Sulawesi puts the environment and peoples health at danger. Important sectors of the provincial economy like the fishing industry and the (dive) tourism would also suffer severely, he argued. Now his worries seem to have fulfilled, even before starting production, although the mining company promised to apply only highest technology and security standards and there won’t be any risk for the environment. Instead, manager Peter Brown says, Toka Tindung is meant to become a show case. Indeed! Not only the fishing population suffered losses caused by the mud, but three top dive sites were irreparably damaged. One of the sites has just been adored by well known underwater photographer, Michael, Aw in his newest book ’Beneath North SulaweSea’. Meanwhile the mining company denies any responsibility and speaks of a natural catastrophy (Manado Post, March 13th)

* Editorial Note: Archipelago Resources plc is headquartered in London and listed on the London Stock Exchange’s AIM. Its working personnel are based in Australia


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