MAC/20: Mines and Communities

Government team finds Buyat Bay at risk

Published by MAC on 2004-09-03

Government team finds Buyat Bay at risk

3 September 1, 2004

Muninggar Sri Saraswati, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Mining company PT Newmont Raya (PT NMR) violated regulations about how it disposed of its tailings, a team of experts from the Office of the State Minister for the Environment said.

The team urged relevant authorities to investigate the matter further.

State Minister for the Environment Nabiel Makarim, who earlier dismissed reports on pollution in the bay, laid blame with the U.S.-based mining firm, quoted the team's findings on Tuesday that the company violated regulations in implementing its submarine tailing disposal (STD) system at Buyat.

"The team also found that the thermocline in Buyat Bay is located between 100 and 300 meters below sea level and not 82 meters," Nabiel said.

The dumping of tailings, which contain heavy metal and chemical debris, under the thermocline layer 82 meters below sea level was a potential danger for Buyat Bay as substances could spread through the water due to earthquakes or other natural disasters, he added.

PT Newmont said it deposited its tailings 82 meters beneath the surface, while claiming that it had secured the environmental impact analysis (Amdal) required for companies before starting operations.

Nabiel said the team also recommended that the government further examine allegations of metal contamination in Buyat Bay through biomonitoring and human biomonitoring.

"If it is found that PT Newmont is involved in heavy metal pollution in Buyat Bay, it must be held responsible for all the damage," he added.

The mining company ceased operating in South Minahasa on Tuesday but has been asked to regreen its former opencast mine and monitor the environment for the next three years.

"The team has also asked the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources to amend its contract with PT Newmont by requiring it to monitor Buyat Bay for 30 consecutive years after the mine is closed," Nabiel said.

The minister said he would table the team's findings at ministerial meetings this week to determine the government's stance on the matter.

In a response, PT Newmont said the team's report did not reflect government policy on the case. "We shall seek clarification on the conclusions soon," it said in a statement.

The company insisted on denying that it had polluted Buyat Bay or created health problems for local residents.

Called the "Peer Review" team, it consisted of experts from the Technology Assessment and Application Agency (BPPT), the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI), Sam Ratulangi University, the University of Indonesia and other agencies.

The team was tasked with reviewing as many as 12 scientific reports on Buyat Bay, including those from Newmont, non-governmental organizations, the National Police and Nabiel's office, which arrived at different conclusions.

The team was different to a independent team set up by the central government to investigate allegations of pollution in the bay.

Separately, National Police chief Gen. Da'i Bachtiar said on Tuesday that the police would not hesitate to identify a party as suspect in the Buyat Bay case.

"We shall name suspects after obtaining sufficient evidence. However, we shall be very careful in declaring a company as the source of contamination," he said.

Da'i said the police would use their own laboratory test results as principal evidence in the investigation, while findings by other teams would used for comparative purposes.

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