MAC/20: Mines and Communities

Indonesia update

Published by MAC on 2007-03-31


Indonesia update

31st March 2007

JUDGES WILL DECIDE THE CASE AGAINST MINING COMPANY NEWMONT MINAHASA RAYA AND DIRECTOR RICHARD NESS, ON 4 APRIL 2007

SUPPORT THE JUDGES TO ISSUE A JUST VERDICT!

Statement from JATAM and WALHI, Jakarta

29th March 2007

The mining activities of Newmont Minahasa Raya (NMR) were made the subject of a criminal trial for pollution in 2005. The Indonesian government and police found plentiful evidence of breaches of environmental law during their eight years of operation (1996-2004). Newmont Minahasa Raya (NMR) used the submarine tailing disposal method to dump heavy-metal laced mine waste (tailings) via a pipeline into Buyat Bay. During NMR’s operation, the seafloor and waters of Buyat Bay, a fishing area of hundreds of fishing families in Buyat and Ratatotok Villages, was polluted with suspended solids and heavy metals. The amount of arsenic and mercury in the sea floor environment rose much higher than international environmental quality standards, contaminating the ecosystem from benthos to fish.

Meanwhile, many cases of strange diseases occurred among the Buyat Bay community during the operation of NMR, including skin rashes, lumps, temporary paralysis and miscarriage. Most villagers from infants to seniors, female and male suffered from various diseases. In 2004, an infant of five months old died because of a strange skin disease she displayed at birth. There was also another infants who was born bleeding from her genitals.

In 2005, sixty six families comprising almost 200 villagers of Buyat Beach village became environmental refugees, moving voluntarily away from Buyat Bay to Duminanga, a coastal town 12 hours away from Buyat. They could no longer bear living in an area polluted with mine waste and prone to these mysterious illnesses.

Putting on trial a giant trans-national company such as Newmont Minahasa Raya, was not easy for the Indonesian police, environment department and prosecutors. The lawsuit had to surmount many obstacles and political pressure. Newmont used their substantial financial resources, public relations, legal consultants and political influence to influence the public and decision makers to give the impression that the giant company is the victim of an injustice. Using the gold they dug from the lands of the Minahasa residents, they did their utmost to hide the truth and avoid legal responsibility for their actions.

The verdict in the Buyat bay criminal case will be decided on April 4, 2007. The case, which is a criminal proceeding, is not about financial compensation for the people of Buyat bay, but about justice. Newmont’s Buyat bay legacy leaves an increasing number of casualties.

We are asking our friends who are concerned with this case to send a letter of support to the judges hearing the case in order that they do justice in their verdict. Please send your letter (sample below) to

Judge Ridwan Damanik, SH
District-Court Manado
Jl. Sam Ratulangi No. 20
Manado-North Sulawesi
Telp : +62-431-863091
*Fax : +62-431-862591*

The deadline for sending the letter is on Tuesday, 3 April 2007, and *the best way to send the letter is by your own fax*. If you have trouble making a fax connection you can send your letter to mya.sylvia@walhi.or.id or luluk@jatam.org and we will pass on your letter.

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