MAC: Mines and Communities

Newmont Ups the Propaganda as Buyat Criminal Case Approaches a Verdict

Published by MAC on 2007-01-23

Newmont Ups the Propaganda as Buyat Criminal Case Approaches a Verdict


23rd January 2007

Jakarta - PT Newmont Minahasa Raya (NMR) continues fooling the public with false statements and advertisements stating that the company is not guilty of polluting Buyat Bay. In the last three weeks, Newmont’s media propaganda has been intensified including the funding of picturesque scenes of Buyat Bay in three of Indonesia’s reputable national media. The propaganda has ostensibly been designed and launched in an effort to support the company’s defence against charges that it has polluted Buyat Bay.

The Denver, Colorado-based global gold mining giant is grasping at straws to try and convince the public and the judges but it is really an insult to common sense since it is undeniable that Newmont polluted Buyat Bay in the years that it disposed of its tailings waste including numerous incidences when the tailings pipe broke, spilling wastes into the surrounding environment.

Newmont’s propaganda is an apparent attempt to further support its former President Director Richard Ness who faces the criminal charges by creating doubt around the indictment. In the court hearings, Ness repeated statements that the company compiled with Indonesian environmental regulations and that they routinely reported environmental monitoring results to the government.

Furthermore, Newmont continues the dictum that they applied advanced detoxification technology to prevent pollution. But even with the application of detoxification processes, arsenic, mercury, silver, iron, manganese, and cyanide were found to exceed Indonesian environmental quality standards. Newmont’s own Environmental Management Plan (RKL) and Environmental Monitoring Plan (RPL) documents indicated 121 incidents where tailings passed through the detoxification process still exceeded environmental quality standards (1). It is obvious that Newmont violated Indonesia’s environmental regulations (2).

The false portrayals of what happened to Buyat Bay have hurt the people that once fished and played in its waters. Refusing to acknowledge the toll of suffering by the Buyat Bay will not make it go away. While those who lived along the coast in Buyat Bay have moved to a place nearby called Duminanga and forge a new life, hundreds of families remain in Buyat Village, a village 1 km from the coast, a place where people also suffer from numerous health conditions linked to exposure to heavy metals such as arsenic and mercury. The people of Buyat Village suffer a number of neurological, digestive and respiratory ailments including tumours, respiratory tract infections, and digestive tract infections. A medical check up carried out by Mer-C in July 2005 found 477 people in Buyat Village suffering such health conditions.

The relocated Buyat Bay community have condemned Newmont’s propaganda by sending letters of clarification to the national press. “We were not catching eight baskets of fish every day (as mentioned in one of the newspapers) as evident in how poor we had become living in Buyat Bay,” said Anwar Stirman, a former resident of Buyat Bay, in the letter to the media.

In response to the heightened Newmont propaganda, the national coordinator of the Mining Advocacy Network (JATAM) Siti Maemunah said: “The community had hoped that the media would treat them with a bit of respect and not publish inaccurate information. But Newmont has more power, money and sway with the media than the people of Buyat. It is a responsibility of the media to portray the situation of the Buyat people that includes a history of horizontal conflict fuelled by Newmont, and health concerns that need addressing.”

Torry Kuswardono, a spokesperson with Friends of the Earth Indonesia (WALHI) added: “ Once again, Newmont is successful in using press to mislead the public on actual conditions in Buyat. The beautiful pictures that Newmont has displayed in a number of newspapers contradict with the experiences of the people who lived there, a place where almost 500 health conditions are found. Sixty six families had to relocate because they were no longer able to survive along the coast of Buyat.” (3).

Contacts :
Torry Kuswardono, Indonesian Forum for Environment (WALHI), cell. 0811 383 270
Adi Widyanto, Mining Advocacy Network (JATAM), cell. 0815 116 55911

Note to Editors:

1. One of the findings by Integrated Team for Buyat Bay Pollution case concerning waste management technology states that: The iron and copper metal substances contained in the detoxified sample still exceed the quality standard based on the Minister of Environment’s Decree No. B-1456/BAPEDAL/07/2000. Arsenic and cyanide concentrations were also noted as high. This corresponds with several Newmont’s RKL and RPL documents where the concentrations of those metals were noted as exceeding official environmental quality standards even after detoxification.
2. Environmental quality standards are found in the Decree of Minister of Environment No.51/MENLH/10/1995 (Enclosure C). The tailings standards are based on the Letter of Minister of Environment No. B-1456/ Bapedal/07/2000.
3. WALHI’s report on the Environmental and Health Condition of Buyat community (2006); MER-C’s presentation to the House of Representative, Commission IX (2006).


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