MAC/20: Mines and Communities

Official Buyat Bay Technical Team Report: Buyat Bay Polluted, sanctions recommended against Newmont

Published by MAC on 2004-11-10

Official Buyat Bay Technical Team Report: Buyat Bay Polluted, sanctions recommended against Newmont

Press release: WALHI, JATAM, CIEL

10 November 2004

Jakarta (Indonesia) - Indonesian community organisations hailed the findings of a government-convened official investigation which has concluded that Buyat Bay is polluted, answering long-running speculation about the impact of Newmont Mining’s disposal of millions of tons of mine waste into the Bay. On Monday (8/11), the Technical Team presented its complete findings to new Indonesian Environment Minister Mr. Rachmat Witoelar, who officially accepted the findings in their entirety.

The official Technical Team investigation is the most thorough conducted so far. A joint team comprised of stakeholders and experts examined physical, chemical and biological aspects to determine environmental quality and impacts on the local community and sealife.[for details, please see note 2]

“The official Technical Team convened by the government possesses strong credibility and accountability, so all stakeholders should accept and respect its findings, including Newmont Mining which has been deceiving the public with relentless propaganda in advertisements,” stressed P. Raja Siregar from WALHI – Friends of the Earth Indonesia.

The investigation concluded that one of the indicators of pollution in Buyat Bay was the contamination of, and loss of diversity of plankton and seafloor creatures (benthos). Another was the the high concentrations of arsenic and mercury in the Buyat Bay seafloor which is smothered in Newmont’s mine waste, and can be classified as contaminated sediment according to international standards.[for details, please see note 1]

Besides this, the Technical Team also found that consuming fish containing arsenic and mercury from Buyat Bay posed a risk for adults and especially children residents of Buyat Bay.

“This research clearly shows that Buyat Bay, the site of Newmont’s mine waste disposal, is polluted,” stated Raja Siregar. Raja added that the investigation found there is no ‘protective thermocline’ ocean layer above the depth of Newmont’s waste pipeline, as claimed by Newmont in its original environmental impact assessment.

“The tech team’s legal review found sufficient evidence that Newmont has committed several license breaches: firstly a breach of operating license requirements relating to regular reporting; secondly a license violation relating to toxic waste management; thirdly a violation of waste disposal permitting relating to ocean disposal of mine waste, and that violation can be categorised as a criminal act with sanctions in clause 43 of the Environmental Management Act (No.23/1997),” explained Executive Director of the Indonesian Center for Environmental Law, Mr. Indro Sugianto.

On account of these breaches, Indro Sugianto urged the government to enforce environmental law in this case. Just as importantly, these acts are considered corporate crimes and must be prosecuted accordingly with sanctions applied according to clause 47 of the Environmental Management Act, specifically by inserting a obligation for a clean-up of Buyat Bay and 30 years of monitoring.

Based on these facts, the technical team recommended that Newmont’s ocean disposal of mine waste is illegal therefore legal action is required against Newmont. In addition, based on the precautionary principle ocean disposal of mine waste should be prohibited in future in Indonesia. Finally, the tech team recommended the Buyat Bay community be relocated because the Bay is polluted, the fish are not fit for consumption, the air is in poor condition and even the drinking water supplied by Newmont is not fit for consumption. Indonesian organisations WALHI-FoE Indonesia, JATAM, ELSAM, TAPAL and ICEL urge the government to immediately implement the tech team’s recommendations and make the important efforts required to handle this problem. “The government must take immediate action because Buyat residents are victims of pollution and can’t wait any longer,” stressed Siti Maimunah of the Indonesian Mining Advocacy Network. [end] Contact:

P. Raja Siregar (WALHI- Friends of the Earth Indonesia), HP: 0811 15 3349

Siti Maimunah (JATAM- Indonesian Mining Advocacy Network), HP: 0811 920 462

Indro Sugianto (ICEL- Indonesian Center for Environmental Law), HP : 0815 9434 228

Notes for the Editor:

1. “Buyat Bay is polluted and a risk to the community”, Highlights of the official joint investigation of Buyat Bay, compiled by WALHI- Friends of the Earth Indonesia based on the official report of the technical team, 9 November 2004, available at http://www.walhi.or.id/eng/buyat_team_summary

2. Media Advisory, 31/10/2004: Buyat / Newmont: Experts speak on CSIRO, WHO reports; Govt report due” http://www.walhi.or.id/eng/csirowho_mr_311004/ which came with attached briefing: “Critique of the 'Buyat Bay' CSIRO Environmental Monitoring study”, is available at http://www.walhi.or.id/eng/critique_csiro_311004/

3. WALHI-Friends of the Earth Indonesia, Indonesian Mining Advocacy Network (JATAM), Indonesian Center for Environmental Law (ICEL), Advocacy Team for the Defense of Environmental Activists (TAPAL), and the Institute for Policy Research and Advocacy (ELSAM)

4. Additional media contacts: a. Amin (JATAM) 021-791 81 683 or 0815 929 0370 b. Estee (WALHI) 021-794 1672 or 0811 89 53 29

5. All English press releases and other materials on the Buyat/Newmont case are available from WALHI-FoE Indonesia website http://www.walhi.or.id/eng/

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