MAC: Mines and Communities


Published by MAC on 2004-06-15


May-June 2004


Newmont Mining Corporation claims to be an industry leader in setting tandards for social and environmental responsibility. But what do communities that are on the receiving end of Newmont's policies have to say? This month, communities in North Sulawesi, Indonesia, are desperately trying to bring the world's attention to a big mess that Newmont created at its Minahasa Raya mine. In the next few weeks, before Newmont closes Minahasa Raya, please urge the company and the Indonesian government to meet the communities' demands for a complete clean-up, adequate compensation and health care.

A model letter follows the action alert.

"Newmont believes that promoting and maintaining high standards of environmental management, particularly in the conservation of natural resources and the prevention of harmful emissions to land, air and water, is an integral part of its business."

Now & Beyond (Newmont's Social and Environmental Report 2002)

"You're all liars. You said that the sea is not polluted, but why are the fishes dead and why is the coast that used to be beautiful now full of mud? Why is it recently we find difficulties to catch fishes? Our children s skin itches. It is true that you all love to turn the facts upside down. "

Anton, Buyat Bay, North Sulawesi,

Indonesia, addressing Newmont Minahasa Raya mining company

In June 2004, the Newmont Minahasa Raya (NMR) gold mine in Indonesia will shut down. Colorado-based Newmont is the world s most profitable gold mining company. Newmont touts its policies for social and environmental responsibility, but when it closes its mine in North Sulawesi, Indonesia, it will leave local communities impoverished, sick and angry. The people of Buyat Bay and Ratatokok face long-lasting environmental damage on land and sea, economic decline, and a host of health problems believed to be related to the mining operation. An international outcry is needed to stop Newmont from walking away from the mess it made in these communities where agriculture and fishing thrived until the company arrived.

After seven years of mining, the scars on the landscape are visible six open pits where Newmont extracted 4.78 million tons of ore. But the greatest damage is invisible. Beginning in 1996, the NMR gold mine dumped more than 4 million tons of highly toxic mine wastes into Buyat Bay a staggering 2000 tons a day. Ocean dumping, also known as Submarine Tailings Disposal (STD), is cheap and convenient for mining companies, but it is banned in many developed countries because of harmful environmental and health impacts. Laden with heavy metals and other toxins, mine tailings are a grave ecological concern in coastal waters because these are the richest and most fragile regions of the oceans. Many open-ocean species also depend on coastal habitat during critical parts of their life cycles.

Newmont piped its tailings 5 miles from the shore into Buyat Bay and dumped them at a depth of 82 meters dangerously shallow compared to most STD operations. The toxic tailings didn t just stay put. Upwelling currents scattered them, and breaking pipes caused spills that affected shallower waters, coral reefs and sea grasses. Additional contaminants and sedimentation flowed into the sea from rivers carrying waste from

Newmont's mine

A 2003 report by the Indonesian Forum for the Environment (WALHI) found that Newmont's tailings contain four times the government-allowed level of cyanide and high levels of mercury, cadmium, and arsenic.

Toxicologists from Sam Ratulangi University in North Sulawesi had found similar results in 1999 and recommended that the tailings disposal sstem be redesigned. Newmont ignored their recommendations and disputes such studies. But disastrous impacts of the Minahasa Raya mine are obvious.

Residents of Buyat Bay suffer symptoms consistent with mercury and arsenic poisoning, including skin rashes, body sores, severe headaches, tumors, and reproductive health problems. Poisoning of the marine environment has caused fish kills and tumors in fish, leading to a collapse of the local fishery, the major source of food and income for the people of Buyat Bay. Farming families in Ratatokok also lost their livelihoods when Newmont paid them less than one US cent per square meter for their land.

Background Information


Growing awareness of the risks of marine tailings disposal has led the United States and Canada to effectively ban the practice. In December 2003, the World Bank s Extractive Industries Review (EIR) panel recommended that the Bank apply the precautionary principle and not finance mines that dump their tailings at sea unless and until independent research demonstrates the safety of STD. Here are some specifics from the EIR report:

"The review panel recommends that, irrespective of the final outcome of the research, STD & [should] not be used in areas such as coral reefs & or in coastal waters used by indigenous peoples and local communities for subsistence. STD should be avoided especially in island regions where this method of disposal may not assure people's sustainable livelihoods&. STD presents an inherent economic risk to local and export fisheries because of real or perceived contamination of marine resources. It may affect large and often endangered marine life, including whales, dolphins and marine turtles, and it may raise the risks to human health through direct or indirect exposure to mining wastes.

In June, the World Bank will release its response to the Extractive Industries Review panel's recommendations. The full report can be seen at


Just weeks remain before Newmont leaves North Sulawesi. Support the communities of Buyat Bay and Ratatotok who demand that Newmont and the Indonesian government clean up the environmental damage left behind by the Newmont Minahasa Raya mine and provide them with health care and compensation for economic losses.

Please send polite letters to Newmont Mining Company and Indonesia's Minister of the Environment. If possible, send a copy of your letter to the president of the World Bank, who will soon decide whether the Bank will finance mining projects that use Submarine Tailings Disposal (STD).

Write your own letter or personalize the model letter below.


*** Personalized letter sent by regular mail

** Personalized fax

* Personalized email


Wayne W. Murdy, CEO
Newmont Mining Corporation
1700 Lincoln Street
Denver, Colorado
USA 80203

Fax: Int l code+303 837-6100

Mr. Nabiel Makarim,
Minister Ministry of Environment
Jl. Mampang Prapatan II
No. 30 Mampang
Jakarta Selatan 12790 Indonesia

Fax: + 62 021-79181683 and +62 021 79181683

Mr. James D. Wolfensohn
President of the World Bank
1818 H. St. NW
Washington DC 20433 USA

Fax: +202 522-3031


Wayne W. Murdy, CEO
Newmont Mining Corporation, and
Mr. Nabiel Makarim,
Minister Ministry of Environment

Cc: James D. Wolfensohn, President, The World Bank Group

Dear Mr. Murdy and Mr. Makarim:

I am writing in support of the communities of Buyat Bay and Ratatotok in North Sulawesi, where the Newmont Minahasa Raya (NMR) gold mine will soon close down, leaving behind long-lasting environmental, economic and health problems.

I ask both Newmont and the Indonesian government to guarantee that Newmont will fully apply its Social Responsibility Policy during the NMR mine closing process, including its pledges to respect the social, economic and cultural rights of indigenous people, set operating standards that exceed the requirements of the local law and consult stakeholders in matters that affect them. These policies require that Newmont meet the communities demands for:

(1) Mine closure, clean-up and reclamation that meet United States standards;

(2) free health services for the people of Buyat Bay and Ratatotok; and

(3) fair compensation for lost land and livelihoods.

As you know, the World Bank s Extractive Industry Review panel has recommended that mining companies should cease the practice of Submarine Tailings Disposal unless and until independent research proves it safe.

Under no circumstances, the EIR panel wrote, should STD be used where tailings might affect coral reefs and the health and economies of indigenous populations. For these reasons, I urge the Indonesian government to prohibit the use of Submarine Tailings Disposal (STD) currently proposed by mining companies in Papua, North Halmahera and

North Sulawesi,. I also urge Newmont to take leadership within the mining industry by stopping the use of STD unless and until independent research proves it safe.

Thank you for your immediate attention to the urgent needs of the communities affected by the Newmont Minahasa Raya mine.




This GLOBAL RESPONSE ACTION was issued at the request of and with information provided by the Indonesian Mining Advocacy Network, JATAM and Earthworks . Special thanks to the Project AWARE Foundation for their support.

There is also an action alert on JATAM's website at


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