MAC: Mines and Communities

Press Briefing - Explanation of developments in the joint investigative team on Buyat Bay

Published by MAC on 2004-10-21

Press Briefing - Explanation of developments in the joint investigative team on Buyat Bay

WALHI-Friends of the Earth Indonesia, Indonesian Mining Advocacy Network (JATAM), Indonesian Center for Environmental Law (ICEL)

Jakarta, 21 October 2004

A. Introduction

In relation to the suspected pollution and environmental destruction in Buyat Bay as well as health problems of the Buyat people, especially of the Buyat Pante village, the meeting of the Coordinating Minister for Peoples' Welfare of the President Megawati's cabinet on 23 July 2004 decided to form a JOINT TEAM based on the Environment Minister's Decree No. 97/2004 regarding the 'Handling of the Pollution Case of Buyat Bay and Environmental Destruction in Buyat Bay, Ratatotok Timur Subdistrict, Minahasa Regency'. This Joint Team consists of government bodies, academics, researchers, NGOs, the Geologists Association, and the Mining Experts Professional Association.

The JOINT TEAM has undertaken an agreed process, as follows:

1. Expert literature review team (Peer Review): A critical review has been carried out of various existing studies into the environmental condition of Buyat Bay, previously conducted by Newmont Mining, NGOs and other independent bodies. The Peer Review has made the following findings:
· Thermocline: Tailings disposed of at shallow depth where there is no "thermocline" in existence which according to the Environmental Plan, was supposed to provide protection from spread of pollution.
· Biodiversity: Distribution of bottom-dwelling sea creatures (benthos), also phytoplankton and zooplankton in Buyat Bay have been impacted and their normal condition altered.
· Pollution: From various studies there are found increases in the levels of Mercury, Arsenic and Cyanide in Buyat Bay sediment, several species of fish and in water.
· Breaches of laws and regulations;
Found that there are indications that Newmont Mining has breached regulations regarding Dangerous and Toxic Waste (according to regs. No.18/1999 and No.85/1999), in the disposal of mine waste containing Dangerous and Toxic Waste without holding appropriate licenses from the Ministry of Environment and the Head of the Environment Protection Agency.
Found indications that Newmont Mining breached requirements in its operating licenses and in its environmental operating plans and environmental monitoring plans.

2. Collection of field data: samples collected during the period 28 August – 12 September 2004 in Buyat Bay waters, Ratatotok Bay, Ratatatok Village, Buyat Village, Buyat Beach Village, and Basaan Village (as a control) and at the location of Newmont Mining's mine. The field team collected around 200 samples to monitor the sea, land, well water, river water, non-river surface water, sediment and air quality at the study location.

3. Laboratorium analysis; Samples were sent to various labs according to the type of sample and the expertise of the labs, coordinated by the Environment Department.

4. Preliminary meetings of the Technical Team; held at the Hotel Salak, Bogor on 13 October 2004. At this meeting, the secretary of the Technical team, Imam Hendargo, conveyed a request from the Environment Minister, Nabiel Makarim, that:

· Field data not be passed on the members of the Technical Team until the results of all lab analysis have been compiled. It was conveyed that the Environment Minister was worried that there might be interpretations or conclusions made on partial data or with bias.
· All lab data will have been compiled by 15 October 2004;
· On 18 October, new data would be shared with the Technical Team in order to undertake joint interpretation.

5. Technical Team meetings to analyse the field data; were undertaken on 18-19 October 2004 in the offices of the Environment Ministry.

B. Nabiel Makarim's Report dated 14 October 2004

The substance of Nabiel Makarim's Report:
· The Environment Minister Nabiel Makarim's Report dated 14 October 2004 (handed to selected media and later published on the Ministry website) only includes a part of the complete field findings and lab results.
· Nabiel Makarim's Report does not discuss the connections between the physical, chemical and biological conditions discovered in the 200 samples gathered.
· Nabiel Makarim's Report does not analyse the impact of physical and chemical parameters on the biodiversity of ocean life (on plankton and benthos).
· Nabiel Makarim's Report does not analyse or explain the impact of heavy metals especially Arsenic on the population of Buyat through consuming fish, drinking water and air. The calculation of exposure levels of metals in humans (Average Daily Intake) is the goal of these measurements as set out in Ministerial Decree No.97/2004.
· Nabiel Makarim's Report was issued without the participation of, nor the benefit of discussions by the Joint Team he established via the Ministerial Decree No.97/2004.

Process of issuing Nabiel Makarim's Report:
· On Sunday 17 October 2004, three days before his last day in office, Nabiel Makarim carried out a closed briefing with several exclusively-invited journalists at the J.W. Marriott Hotel, in which he handed them a report.
· The Environment Minister unilaterally released the report without knowledge of and consultation with members of the Technical Team and Steering Committee constituted under his own Ministerial Decree No. 97/2004.
· Environment Minister Nabiel Makarim distributed his report to national and international media, a day before the Joint Team was due to conduct a discussion on the lab analysis results and other field data on October 18, 2004.
· Nabiel Makarim's Report was not passed on to media in an official government process.
· Nabiel Makarim's Report was posted on the Env Dept website on 19 October without the knowledge of the Joint Team, and even without the knowledge of head of the team, Ms. Masnelyarti Hilman (an Environment Ministry Deputy).
· In accordance with the Ministerial Decree No.97/2004, the final results of the Technical Team will be released to the public by the Joint Team Steering Committee.

C. WHO Report by the Institute of Minamata Disease, Japan

· The report is entitled: “Mercury Pollution: Buyat & Totok Bay, North Sulawesi, Indonesia, Final Report prepared by: Mineshi Sakamoto, PhD, Institute for Minamata Disease, Ministry of Environment Japan, for World Health Organization Indonesia, Date: 08 September 2004” (the "WHO Study").
· WHO Study cannot shed light on the environmental conditions in Buyat Bay because the environmental parameters measured were very limited in geographical range, heavy metals sampled and number of samples.
· In this WHO Study only mercury and cyanide in the environment were measured. Arsenic, which represents the primary pollutant in Buyat bay was not measured in sediment, water, fish, air or other food sources.
· The primary focus of the WHO Study was simply to evaluate whether people were suffering from Minamata Disease from being exposed to the organic compound Methyl Mercury, as this is the expertise of the Japanese Minamata Institute researchers.
· Therefore, the blitz of advertisements issued by Newmont Mining in the mass media which claim that "WHO study concludes there is no pollution at Buyat Bay", are totally misleading. The limited sampling of the WHO Study cannot be used as a basis to make conclusions about the environmental conditions, existence of pollution in Buyat Bay, and environmental impacts.

D. The Joint Team process has not concluded, because:

The Technical Team has not reported, in fact the Technical Team has only newly analysed the results on 18-19 October 2004. The report of the Technical Team is under preparation.
The Technical Team and the Field Investigation Team have not yet reported to the Joint Team steering committee.
The Joint Team has therefore not provided any official results yet.

Contact people:
P. Raja Siregar – WALHI, HP: +62 811 15 3349
Siti Maimunah – JATAM, HP: +62 811 920 462
Indro Sugianto – ICEL , HP : +62 815 9434 228

Note to editors: Translation of excerpt of article in Kompas Daily, Wed, 20 October 2004
Title: "Env Minister pre-empts Joint Team on Buyat":

Head of Technical Team on Buyat Case Masnellyarti Hilman issued a correction regarding the report. According to her, the report was made by an internal team formed by the Environment Minister, Nabiel Makarim.

"Those are (the results) of the internal team of Mr. Nabiel. However, the data analysis is not completed yet. There are data on environmental quality published in the report that are actually still being discussed by the Technical Team," explained Masnellyarti who is also the Deputy Assistant for the Environment Minister on Development of Technical Infrastructures for Environmental Management.

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