MAC: Mines and Communities

Buyat/Newmont: Experts speak on CSIRO, WHO reports; Government report due

Published by MAC on 2004-10-31

Buyat/Newmont: Experts speak on CSIRO, WHO reports; Government report due

MEDIA ADVISORY: WALHI-Friends of the Earth Indonesia & Indonesian Mining Advocacy Network (JATAM)

Sunday, 31 October 2004

Jakarta (Indonesia), 31 October 2004 -- Scientific and medical experts in Australia and the US have debunked Newmont's media claims that it's mine waste dumping operation received the all-clear from studies by the World Health Organisation/ Minamata Institute [1] and Australian research body CSIRO.

"CSIRO's data makes it clear that the millions of tons of Newmont's mine tailings in Buyat Bay are a continuous source of toxic metals," said Dr Alan Tingay, a Environmental Scientist with many years experience in mining consulting.

Speaking from the Australian mining centre of Perth, Dr Tingay continued; "Whether they have been a source of health effects over the many years of tailings dumping remains unclear; however, Newmont now needs to determine how they are going to stop the release of these toxic substances into the Bay that is the basis of these people's livelihoods." [2: For further details, see scientific critique of the CSIRO report.]

The World Health Organisation in Indonesia together with Japanese Institute for Minamata Disease conducted an investigation published on 8 September. Newmont pointed to the WHO report's findings as proof that Buyat Bay is not polluted. Staff of the World Health Organisation have however stated that the WHO investigation had the specific objective to see whether people were suffering from Minamata Disease as was initially reported in some Indonesian media, and should by no means be taken as an in-depth study into general environmental or health conditions.

"Newmont has jumped the gun in proclaiming its innocence," wrote David Silver, M.D., Assistant clinical professor at the Department of Preventive Medicine and Biometrics, University of Colorado after a recent visit to Buyat Bay and the mine area.

"As I myself have personally observed from recent visits to Buyat Bay, there is no question that local villagers who drink water, bathe and fish there, are suffering from a variety of chronic health problems. We should not be ruling out the possibility that, even at low levels, long-term exposure to chemicals typically found in mine tailings - such as arsenic, antimony, cadmium, cyanide, zinc, lead, copper and nickel - could be contributing to the villagers' health problems," concluded Dr. Silver.

Report will end mix-up around Newmont pollution by other previous studies

WALHI-Friends of the Earth Indonesia and the Indonesian Mining Advocacy Network (JATAM) today looks forward to the news that the Joint Technical Team convened by the Indonesian Environment Department will soon publish the results of its investigation at Buyat Bay [3]. The Joint Team's findings are aimed at putting an end to ongoing confusion over pollution of Buyat Bay by US mining giant, Newmont.

Raja Siregar, a researcher with WALHI-Friends of the Earth Indonesia who is participating in the team has this to say:

"It is by far the most comprehensive and thorough study ever done on the case. It covers all physical, chemical, and biological aspects as well as what those findings means in relation to the environmental quality of the bay and its potential impacts on marine life and human beings. This is unlike other previous studies which have only gone as far as looking into the condition of the waters (physical and chemical aspects). The results will represent the actual condition of the bay and people living around it as well as its source of pollution."

Added Siti Maimunah, Coordinator of Indonesian Mining Advocacy Network (JATAM):

"The team's work and potential results, which will include an analysis of potential legal steps, will represent a participative multi-stakeholder effort including Indonesian government, NGOs, and Newmont. The team has gone through a difficult yet fruitful process to investigate the pollution. We hope that the results will end the confusion in the media and the public on the case as a result of Newmont's recent PR spin and the partial and misleading 14 Oct report by the now-former Environment Minister Nabiel Makarim."

The Technical Team of the Government-convened Joint Investigation on Buyat Bay is the official, multi stakeholder team formed in early August 2004 as an Indonesian government initiative to tackle the issue of the health problems allegedly due to Newmont's pollution of the bay. Since August, the team has collected no less than 200 samples - more than any other studies - and examined and discussed them thoroughly involving all members of the team.


[1] The WHO/Minamata team included Jan A. Speets (Advisor Environmental Health) and other staff from WHO Jakarta office.

[2] Please see attached a scientific critique of the CSIRO report, also available on WALHI's website at
· The CSIRO report is available by email from Estee:
· The WHO/Minamata report is available from at

[3] The Environment Department press release is available in Indonesian at


- The English version of our latest releases on the Buyat/Newmont case are available at:

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