MAC/20: Mines and Communities

Greens Protest Newcrest in Indonesia

Published by MAC on 2004-05-02

Greens Protest Newcrest in Indonesia

Laksamana.Net

May 02, 2004

Environmentalists have accused Australian mining company Newcrest's of human rights violations and breaches of environmental law at its Toguraci gold mine in Halmahera, North Maluku province.

Friends of the Earth Australia (FoEA) and the Mineral Policy Institute (MPI) on Wednesday (28/4/04) staged a vigil outside Newcrest's headquarters in Melbourne as an act of solidarity with the Kao and Malifut communities living around the Toguraci mine.

Last October, Newcrest had to suspend operations at the site because of the presence of about 200 illegal miners.

In January, Mobile Brigade (Brimob) police on the company's payroll shot dead a land rights protester at the mine. Many other protesters were beaten and arrested.

Since the shooting, locals critical of Newcrest have been subjected to police harassment and detention without trial, FoEA said in a press statement last week.

FoEA also accused Newcrest of violating Indonesia's 1999 Forestry Law by clearing land last year in a protected forest to pave the way for commercial mining at Toguraci. The government recently passed a new regulation allowing mining companies with contracts issued before the Forestry Law to resume operations in protected forests.

Despite the regulation, the Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi) is preparing a lawsuit against Newcrest for breaching the Forestry Law.

Meanwhile, Indonesia's National Commission on Human Rights is investigating alleged human rights violations by Brimob officers acting as Newcrest's security force.

MPI spokesman Igor O'Neil said protestors at Halmahera have asked Australia to help "bring Newcrest under control".

"They want Newcrest to prevent violence by the Brimob paramilitary security force, and respect the environment protection laws and the rights of Halmahera's indigenous and local people to sustainable livelihoods on their traditional land," he said.

Walhi's chief campaigner Nur Hidayati said Newcrest's operations were contributing to the destruction of Indonesia's forests.

"Indonesian forests are in crisis, with the deforestation rate reaching more than 3.5 million hectares per year. Newcrest's operation in Toguraci Protected Forest is brazenly violating our Forestry Law and also their contract of work with our government which states that foreign mining operators will conform to environmental law and regulation during their operations in Indonesia," she said.

Liz Turner from FoEA accused the Australian Embassy in Jakarta of complicity in the events at Toguraci. "The Australian Embassy in Jakarta has been involved with lobbying on behalf of Newcrest to overturn environmental protection and evict local indigenous communities from mining leases," she said.

"What happens to the credibility and enforcement of Indonesia's forest protection laws when big foreign companies can get away with ignoring them?" she added.

Regardless of the criticism, work is now underway at Toguraci following delays caused by the illegal mining.

Newcrest last month reported an unaudited net profit of A$21.6 million for the first-quarter of 2004.

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