MAC/20: Mines and Communities

Newmont criminal case defence on shaky ground:

Published by MAC on 2005-08-05

Newmont criminal case defence on shaky ground:
CSIRO, WHO Buyat reports do not exonerate Newmont

Indonesian Forum for Environment (WALHI) Media Briefing

5 Aug 2005

Jakarta: Scientific and medical experts in Indonesia, 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 and Australian research body CSIRO. Meanwhile, the much more in-depth Official Joint Technical Team concluded Buyat Bay is Polluted and a risk to the community:

(1) CSIRO study shows Buyat Bay sediment contaminated and releasing heavy metals
"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 in late 2004.
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." For further details, see attached Backgrounder (1) scientific critique of the CSIRO report.
(2) WHO study limited to Minamata disease question
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.
"As I myself have personally observed from recent visits to Buyat Bay, 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 in 2004.
(3) Official Joint Technical Team concluded Buyat Bay is Polluted and a risk to the community
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. The team collected no less than 200 samples of a greater variety than any other studies - and examined and discussed them thoroughly involving all members of the team. The team concluded:

· Buyat Bay seabed is polluted with arsenic and mercury.
· Arsenic and mercury found in Buyat Bay is not natural.
· Newmont dumping breached toxic waste law.
· Arsenic and mercury in fish poses unacceptable risk for Buyat Bay community.
· Mercury is accumulating in seabed creatures of Buyat and Ratatotok Bays.
· Biodiversity in Buyat Bay hit by arsenic pollution.
· No protective thermocline despite Newmont claims.
· Buyat Bay human health hazard requires fish intake reduction and possibly relocation of residents.
· Buyat Bay human health hazard requires arsenic poisoning investigation and up to 30 years monitoring by Newmont.
· Legal action should be taken over breaches of environmental law and ocean dumping of mine waste should not be permitted in future.

P. Raja Siregar of WALHI said regarding the Joint Technical Team report:

"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 represent the actual condition of the bay and people living around it as well as its source of pollution."

See attached Backgrounder (2) for details.

(1) For comment on the CSIRO report, contact:
· Dr. Alan Tingay, Environmental Scientist / mining consultant (Perth, Australia): ph +61 8 9299 6113
· Dr Gavin Mudd, Lecturer in Environmental Engineering at Monash University, (Melbourne, Australia): ph + 61 41911 7494.
(2) The WHO/Minamata team included Jan A. Speets (Advisor Environmental Health) and other staff from WHO Jakarta office, phone +62 21 520 4349.
(3) For comment on the Government-convened Joint Investigative Team, contact:
· P. Raja Siregar, WALHI-Friends of the Earth Indonesia: ph +62 8111 53349
· Trouble Getting Through? Contact WALHI:
Igor O'Neill on +62 812 861 2286
Estee on +62 811 895 329

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