MAC: Mines and Communities


Published by MAC on 2005-06-08


Jakarta, June 8, 2005

Buyat bay used to be home and livelihood of many fishermen settling for its nature's generosity. They used to continuously enjoy the nature gifts from the sea. Shell, fish, shrimps, and other marine biota were very easy to get every day. For decades, people of Buyat bay lived prosperously from fishing in Buyat Bay.

In 1996, a gold giant Newmont Minahasa Raya Ltd., (NMR) came and stated its operation in the area. Despite people's disapproval, the Denver-based company tested the Submarine tailings disposal in Buyat bay waters. Just as what people feared of, thousands of fish were killed when the test was conducted.

During 1996-1998, there had been at least ten incidences of massive fish killings by tailing waste in Buyat Bay. Since 1999, people had complained about strange illnesses such as dizziness, cramp, and swollen skin layers indicating Arsenic (As) poisoning from tailing waste which has been flowing to the surface and underground water. Since Newmont dumped a daily 2,000 tons of tailing waste into Buyat Bay, not only did people suffered from various illnesses, but they also lost their source of livelihood because the sea has been contaminated.

In Sumbawa (West Nusa Tenggara Province) another Newmont branch operating since year 2,000. It hasn't been five years since the company begun operating, but the local community has suffered from the same impact as that of Buyat bay. In Senunu Bay, Newmont Nusa Tenggara (NNT) Corp. dumped a daily tailing waste of 120,000 tons. Now, fishermen's income falls drastically because the fish, shell, and young milkfish have disappeared from the bay. A number of people also suffer from strange illness like the people in Buyat bay. Ironically, when the dumping permit reached its due date in May 2005, The Ministry of Environment extended the permit of dumping the tailing waste to Senunu Bay until 2007.

Learning from Buyat case, it's the government of Indonesia should apply strict regulation to prohibit the Submarine Tailings Disposal. The system of tailing dumping to the sea has long been abandoned in the USA and Canada, the origin countries of the transnational companies for environmental safety reason. Strict environmental rule in their home countries has forced mining companies to seek for developing countries like Indonesia, whose weak environmental law, inoperative democracy, and corrupt regime as conducive land for their unscrupulous investment.

In Indonesia, there are currently five mining companies using and planning to use STD technology. They are Wedabay Nickel Ltd., Gag Nickel Papua Ltd., Meares Soputan Mining Ltd., Citra Palu Mineral Ltd., and of course Newmont Nusa Tenggara Ltd. Up until now, the government of Indonesia hasn't dare to take firm actions to these companies. Will people in those areas be victimized again like Buyat people? This question takes us to the pledge of saying no to STD system. We've had enough of sorrow for Buyat case, there should be no more people victimized to serve greedy colonialists.

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