MAC: Mines and Communities

First Fish Caught in Duminanga: Buyat Community Relocation Update

Published by MAC on 2005-07-01

First Fish Caught in Duminanga: Buyat Community Relocation Update


1st July 2005

By June 25, 2005, many members of the Buyat community have moved to an area called Duminanga that will now become their new homeland. Duminanga is located 100 kilometers from Buyat Bay, which is five hours away by road or 24 hours by traditional sea transportation. Of the total of 75 families in Buyat Bay, 66 families chose to relocate in order to escape the environment that they feel is contributing to their poverty and strange health conditions.

Duminanga is a coastal area similar to Buyat Bay, which suits the Buyat people's customs as a fishing community. Native people of the Duminanga area continue to welcome Buyat people despite tactics by local government officials including the Regent and the Governor of North Sulawesi that support Newmont. The Buyat people continue to settle into Duminanga.

During the first day of their new life in Duminanga, several men caught their first fish from Duminanga waters, the same fish that they can no longer catch in Buyat Bay. Temporary housing has been built with plans to establish permanent housing. This is an important landmark in the lives of the Buyat people. They have reclaimed their rights to livelihood and healthy environments, which are rights guaranteed in Indonesia's constitution.

Community Affected by Newmont to Evacuate

Buyat case has been in process for resolution for almost a year-11 months to be precise. However, it hasn't been settled yet. The issue of pollution has finished with government announced that Buyat Bay was contaminated with mining wastes. Finding 'the culprit' isn't that easy, moreover since it deals with giants like Newmont.

Out of law enforcement matters to accomplish, the government is in responsibility to handle Buyat people healthcare and relocation. Recommendation of Joint Team clearly states that the Ministry of Environment and Department of Health are responsible for immediately relocating Buyat people to a safe area as well as conducting sufficient healthcare to the people.

The Only Way to Survive

After six months from government announcement, relocation and healthcare not yet been realized. According to Government it must wait for compensation from Newmont, while people's health is deteriorating, and their livelihood is gone because the sea is contaminated. It is why people say, " To save our life we must relocate".

Since Buyat Bay is highly contaminated with heavy metal released from Newmont Mining, the environment has been completely degraded. Contamination that makes people sick comes through marine biota, incl. fish and shrimp, fresh water, and air.

Recent study conducted by Ministry of Environment revealed that levels of arsenic in ground water consumed by people consistent with that in their urine. Medical audit conducted by MER-C (Medical Emergency Response-Crisis) found health problems among Buyat people escalated by 100% during Februari - April 2005. According to Dr. Zackya, who led MER-C team, people health has been deteriorating since they remain staying in polluted environment.

Relocation considered as the most urgent for the community in order to survive. After relocation they can continue the struggle for fair and transparent settlement of Buyat case. People stated they will never negotiate with Newmont. However, Newmont maintains intimidation to people by paying some agitators to create disorder. The intensity of intimidation escalates as moment of relocation is approaching.


Buyat is one of sample cases about gold mining impacts to communities' health and livelihood. In the name of investment and economic growth, the environment and generation sustainability has been sacrificed. There, people are victimized by the greediness of capital power allying with the corrupt government. Natural resources should have been enjoyed by local people has turned up a disaster.

Buyat case has to be an example of how Indonesia hasn't been liberated from colonialism by Multinational Corporations-giant companies driving world's free-market economic, expanding to people's livelihood areas, evicting people, exploiting the resources, and fooling people in order to take away our nation's natural richness inside our earth.

Buyat case has to be an example of how the authority and the regulations they make have been dictated by capital power with their 'invisible hands'. Just for a valueless income, Indonesia lets piles of wastes dumped into its seas, when the method has long been abandoned by the country origin of mining giants. Here we are, importing the dirty technology, the Submarine Tailings Disposal.

Buyat is a warning for the government officials, academicians, students, and whoever we are. The nation's natural richness has to be best utilized for people's prosperity. We must never sell cheap our nation's asset just to serve a number of conglomerates and other nations. Indonesia's mining resources are national asset, not owned by transnational corporations, nor the global market.

Buyat is a warning for us all. Extractive and mining industry will not create prosperity for the people. Large scale mining always dislodge people's land, create conflicts and violence, as well as feeding corruption and impoverishing our nation. We must continue resistance against the demolisher industry.

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