MAC: Mines and Communities

Thousands of Indigenous Protestors Blockade Australian Mine in Maluku

Published by MAC on 2003-11-02

Thousands of Indigenous Protestors Blockade Australian Mine in Maluku

Jatam Media Release, Jakarta

November 2 2003

Halmahera, Indonesia : Over two thousands local indigenous people have occupied and halted work at Newcrest Mining's new Toguraci mine site in North Maluku, Indonesia, demanding compensation and a share in benefits from Newcrest's previous gold mining since 1999. The protestors include women, children and the vast majority are local people and members of local tribes of Pagu, Madole, Boing and Towiliko Kao.

Newcrest has requested security force (on-sites security includes the Indonesian military, whose wages are paid by Newcrest) to remove the protestors, describing them as "Illegal miners' originating from elsewhere in Indonesia, and further claimed they have threatened violence against company staff. When interviewed on-site yesterday by The Mineral Policy Institute, the claims were vehemently denied by the protest's indigenous leaders.

"Our peaceful demonstration is sponsored by the Pagu Tribal Association. Each of 2,660 people have registered their name and villages, and agreed to not use violence or damage company property" explained Jhon Djinimangale, of the Soa Boing tribe. "The company is just trying to discredit our protest and have us evicted."

Legality of forest clearing in doubt: Newcrest mining of the Toguraci gold deposit has been held up by the Indonesian Forestry Law (1999) which prohibits open cut mining in areas such as the Toguraci Protected Forest. A decision on the protected forest mining ban lies in the hands of the Indonesian House of Representatives and the Department of Forestry. Neither has made a decision to overturn the ban, yet several months ago Newcrest went ahead and clear-felled the heavily forested Toguraci project area, then stripped the site to bare earth.

Newcrest failure to negotiate leads to direct action/Timeline :

June 2003 (date unknown): Newcrest clears the new Toguraci mine site before reaching agreement on outstanding compensation demands re the Gosowong pit, and without proper consultation with indigenous community in the local Kao and Malifut districts.

31 June and 18 July 2003: Community issues statements of demand. They were ignored by Newcrest, who refused to attend requested meetings.

August 2003: Newcrest invited to 3-way meeting with reps of local community and government of North Maluku, in Ternate. Newcrest failed to attend and the meeting produced no results.

22 September 2003: 3-way meeting (community-company, govt) in Ternate, 3 hours travel from mine site. No agreement was reached, and no dates for further meetings established.

24 October 2003 - ongoing: Mass occupation by 2,660 people. Local people commence collecting and selling gold ore to support their protest occupation while they await a fair resolution of their claims by Newcrest.

"We won't leave here until the company (Newcrest) provides benefits to the community relative to the damage they've already caused, and the profits they've made from our gold at Gosowong. And they can't begin to mine at Toguraci until they reach an agreement through direct negotiations with us," concluded Mr. Djinimangele.[end]

Media contacts :
Eton Duan, Tobelo, Halmahera, North Maluku: +62 924-21572
George Corputty, Humanum Foundation, Ambon, Maluku, +62 911-35621
Techa Beaumont, Mineral Policy Institute, Australia +61 2 9557 9079

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