MAC/20: Mines and Communities

PT Newmont Minahasa Raya Condemned For Destroying Buyat Bay Waters

Published by MAC on 2004-04-26


PT Newmont Minahasa Raya Condemned For Destroying Buyat Bay Waters

JATAM Press Release, 26 April 2004

Jakarta - Thirty days after receiving a letter from non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in Jakarta, PT Newmont Minahasa Raya (NMR) has not responded to the concerns outlined of environmental degradation of Buyat Bay thus spurning condemnation from several NGOs on Monday, April 26th in Jakarta.

PT NMR was condemned for not rehabilitating the degraded environment caused by their mining operations, by Walhi (Friends of the Earth Indonesia), JATAM (Mining Advocacy Network), ELSAM (Institute for Policy Research and Advocacy), TAPAL (Environmentalist Defence Team) and Kontras (an Indonesian human rights organization).

"Up until now the community living in the vicinity of the PT NMR gold mining operations as well as several environmental NGOs in Indonesia have demanded that PT NMR stop their activities that is destroying the quality of the environment, especially the quality of the Buyat Bay waters," explained Raja Siregar from Walhi.

Raja added that because in June 2004 PT NMR will close their operations, they are demanding that the company immediately conduct environmental rehabilitation, especially in the Buyat Bay waters of Bolaang Mongondow District and surrounding areas and respond to other issues related to the losses suffered by the Ratatotok Village, Belang Regency, Minahasa District and Buyat coastal community, Bolaang Mongondow District, North Sulawesi province.

According to JATAM data, PT NMR is dumping 2000 cubic metres per day into the Buyat Bay waters. The tailings disposal has resulted in fish kills (including goropa, tato, kuli paser, and nener fish) and heavy metal contamination of the Buyat Bay waters. The heavy metal contamination includes mercury, arsenic, lead and antimony. The fish kills and heavy metal contamination has been found in a 100-150 metre radius from the end of the PT NMR tailings pipe.

Based on Walhi research results in 2000, there has been a sharp change in the natural landscape of Buyat Bay as a result of the tailings disposal, especially at a depth of 80-90 metres or at the end of the tailings pipe. In 1997, the end of the tailings pipe is at a depth of 82 metres (according to PT NMR's environmental impact assessment (AMDAL)) but has since changed to depths between 60-70 metres. The dumping of 2000 cubic metres per day from 1997 to 2000 has caused a shallowness of the bay of 10-12 metres at the end of the tailings pipe. PT NMR's tailings has spread throughout most of the waters, starting at a depth of 13 metres, and has covered sea grass and coral reef areas. There are grave concerns that heavy metal contamination including arsenic and mercury have accumulated in the people of Buyat Bay village.

TAPAL coordinator Kurniawan Adi Nugroho criticized the Denver,Colorado, US-based company because they have closed their eyes to various impacts suffered by the Buyat Bay-Ratatotok communities, mainly the impacts caused by the company's submarine tailings disposal operations.

"Both these communities now are in an alarming state. Environmental contamination by tailings waste disposed by PT NMR is not only killing the livelihoods of most fisher peoples but is also causing health conditions like confusion, skin diseases, cramps, and trembling," stated Kurniawan.

Although the mine closure date is quickly approaching, within a few months, PT NMR has not socialized the mine closure program plans to the community. If the community requests information about this matter, the company states that they do not have enough money to duplicate the information. The inability of the company to do this was expressed at a dialogue between the Buyat and Ratatotok communities and PT NMR facilitated by the North Sulawesi provincial government in March 2004.

"This is very shameful. The company has made profits of hundreds of billion Rupiah from the exploitation in the area but cannot aford to photocopy the mine closure documents? It is therefore difficult to believe that this company will fulfill its obligations associated with environmental, social and economic rehabilitation based on their track record so far," stated Amiruddin al Rahab from ELSAM.

Aminuddin A. Kirom

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