Tuesday, January 26, 2010
Indonesian Gold Mining Reports
1. Eastern Indonesian Gold Rush
2. A Life for Gold
3. Newmont’s Golden Shine
4. Glittering Prize
- A Life for Gold [Traditional mining in Sekotong claims many lives. Are the gold deposits in mining areas of Lombok larger than those in Sumbawa? The desperate actions of illegal miners are a heavy burden on the shoulders of local administrations. Has the control effort failed?]
- Newmont’s Golden Shine [PT Newmont Nusa Tenggara dominates gold mining in Sumbawa Island but its submarine-tailing disposal is still in the spotlight. According to research, people around the mines depend too much on the international mining giant.]
- Glittering Prize [Investors are eyeing the gold potential of East Nusa Tenggara (NTT). But the NTT population tends to reject gold exploration and mining, fearing it will harm the public interest and damage the environment.]
It is no secret that there are plenty of gold deposits in Indonesia. As a consequence, today the country is witnessing many gold mines opening of every size imaginable. Just like America during the 1848 gold rush, Indonesia is now experiencing its own gold fever.
GOLD mines of all sizes are scattered all the way from the westernmost corner of Sumatra Island to the lands of Papua. Freeport Indonesia manages the Grasberg Mountain gold mine, which contains the largest gold deposit in the world (also third-largest for copper deposits). In the past two years, according to records from the Department of Energy & Mineral Resources, many investors have been trying to find their way into West Nusa Tenggara (NTB) province. Only a small part of this region is fertile enough to support farming or plantations, the rest are hard-ground pastures rich in gold, copper, and mineral deposits.
Gold deposits in the Batu Hijau goldmine in Sumbawa Island managed by PT Newmont Nusa Tenggara (NNT) may not seem like much compared to Papua’s PT Freeport, but it is very promising nonetheless. Gold fever in Sekotong region, Lombok Island, has even reduced the number of people seeking work overseas.
Many investors are also trying to get their hands on the gold deposits in East Nusa Tenggara (NTT) province. The people of NTT in general are against the gold mining because they think it brings more harm than good. Moreover, the Komodo Island conservation area, which is a prime tourism site, also lies within the NTT region.
Over the past few years, more and more gold-rich areas have been discovered in Sulawesi. Examples include North Sulawesi province (here, PT Newmont Minahasa Raya once received public attention because of its infamous Buyat Bay pollution case), the gold mines in Bombana which—despite its rather problematic relationship with illegal miners—are said to have enormous gold deposits, and the Pobaya Gold Mine (Central Sulawesi) which shares a similar problem with its counterparts in Bombana.
Not to mention the gold deposits in the Maluku Islands—especially South Halmahera regency which has plenty of gold mines—and Obi Island and the Pamboang region.
Yet the main problem of gold mines remains: even though both official gold mining (either large-, medium-, or small-scale) and the illegal ones undeniably generate large incomes for the state, they also contribute to environmental damage. Over time, environmental pollution cases are becoming more apparent, and consequently they have also drawn more attention from society.
The problems of unauthorized gold mines (PETI), alias illegal mining, present a major headache for local administrations as well. Activities from these unauthorized mines often inflict severe damage on the environment, aside from claiming the lives of illegal miners due to their reckless mining methods.
Here at Tempo we try to “map” the problems of gold mines in the Eastern Indonesia Region. Because of the vast scope of the problem and the many gold mine locations in eastern Indonesia, we will present the report in a series of three articles. In this edition, we are focusing the report on the problems of gold mines in NTB and NTT. The two following reports will be about the gold mines in Sulawesi, and also the mining problems in Papua and Maluku.
A Life for Gold
Traditional mining in Sekotong claims many lives. Are the gold deposits in mining areas of Lombok larger than those in Sumbawa? The desperate actions of illegal miners are a heavy burden on the shoulders of local administrations. Has the control effort failed?
EVER since illegal gold mining began to surface in Sekotong subdistrict, West Lombok regency, West Nusa Tenggara (NTB) province, 50 people have lost their lives in the mines according to local administration records. Some suspect the number to be greater, only the deaths were not reported. There are hundreds of motorcycles parked for months in the mining sites, but no one has ever come to use them. Their owners are suspected to have perished somewhere within the mines, left unreported to the authorities.
Disaster strikes as the victims are slammed by rockslides which occur from their mining activities. Sekotong is a region of rocky hills, 500-800 meters above sea level. Miners work on hill slopes, leaning by 45 degrees on average, which would often send landslides in rainy seasons. Their traditional mining methods only make things worse: workers dig a ditch or hole more than 5 meters deep. Then, they further dig in any direction following the ground where they suspect the gold may be. The entrance holes are sometimes no larger than the size of their bodies. It is this mining method which often claims the lives of miners buried by landslides from newly dug grounds.
Even with the many lives of traditional miners lost, their number keeps increasing day by day. Records from the West Lombok regional administration, made via the reports from village chiefs in the mining areas, show that the number of illegal miners reaches as high as 3,000 people. Many think the actual number could be even higher, close to 4,000 people.
It is suspected that most of the miners are newcomers, coming from outside Lombok. They seem to give little regard to personal safety in their hunt for gold. They consider the fatal accidents an “occupational hazard.” They also tend to cover up the accident cases because they fear it would lead to the closing of the mines.
Indeed, the West Lombok administration finally closed illegal mines in Sekotong area, last December. Despite approval from the society for the closing, local people still protested it. In Selindungan village, one of the traditional gold mining sites, residents said that the mines in Sekotong had helped them escape from poverty and reduce unemployment as well. “When the government gives us work, we will stop mining. Until then we will continue working in the mines,” said one Selindungan villager.
Meanwhile, West Lombok Regent Zaini Arony, said that Sekotong is a region suitable for both tourism and mining. To help develop the region the West Lombok regional administration would need to organize the activities of unauthorized miners infesting Sekotong region, so that they can become environmentally friendly as well as preventing accidents from occurring. “The government is not intending to shut off the Sekotong people’s source of income. Instead, the government aims to organize the mining effort to pay more attention to the environment and the safety of their work,” said Regent Zaini as quoted by Suara NTB.
As Zaini said, illegal mines were closed to allow future mining operations to commence according to standard procedures, thus minimizing the effects of environmental damage. Sekotong’s gold mines have only helped exacerbate damage to the environment due to the mining activity. “The cost to fix the damage far exceeds what is obtained by the West Lombok local administration.”
During the closure the government will conduct research and investigation to make Sekotong a suitable mining region, as well as provide Sekotong people with the necessary skills needed to mine gold the correct way. According to Regent Zaini, out of 3,000 miners, only 27 percent of them are locals, the rest outsiders. “Should the people stubbornly continue with the mining, we would not hesitate to use heavy sanctions,” said Zaini.
The West Lombok local administration closed illegal gold mines in Sekotong, after a landslide claimed the lives of nine miners in January last year. However, illegal mining continues, though secretly, like mining only at night. The number of miners has even increased, perhaps because the bountiful gold in Sekotong is, after all, not just a false rumor.
It is said that every sack of gold-infused rocks, each weighing 20 kilograms, contains a minimum of 0.5 grams of gold. Such profit comes within a day, from mining to the rock processing. One miner even bragged about the 3 kilograms of pure gold he had obtained in a month, worth billions of rupiah, yet he only spent around Rp50 million to begin with.
Obviously the people of West Lombok, most of who are admittedly from less fortunate classes, along with people from other regions, are all drawn to join the hunt for gold. Gold mining in Sekotong has even reduced the amount of overseas contract worker (TKI) candidates in this region, especially those who are about to go to Malaysia. Before people started actively prospecting the Sekotong gold mines, around 250 foreign labor candidates came to the Mataram Immigration Office every day to process passports. Now their number has dwindled to just 40 to 50 people.
Jusuf Merukh, a gold mining entrepreneur, was the first to reveal the high gold deposits in Lombok Island. On November 28, 2007, before members of the Association of Young Indonesian Entrepreneurs (HIPMI), Jusuf, then a commissioner of PT Newmont Nusa Tenggara, explained that the gold deposit was larger than Sumbawa Island’s. “Lombok contains 3-5 grams of gold per ton, while Sumbawa has 2-2.5 grams of gold per ton,” claimed Merukh.
As is known, PT Newmont Nusa Tenggara holds the gold mining contract in Sumbawa and Lombok. In Sekotong, Newmont Nusa Tenggara surveyed from 1986 to 2004. After limited drilling, PT Newmont Nusa Tenggara declared Sekotong as having low potential. That is why it was returned to the NTB administration. However, according to rumors, Newmont gave back the mining rights because at that time the NTB provincial administration wanted to preserve Lombok as a tourism destination, free from large-scale mining.
Later on, PT Newmont Nusa Tenggara’s vacant spot was taken over by PT Indotan, which itself had been doing exploitation activities as well, after it obtained mining rights from the local administration. When the NTB provincial administration issued its Local Regulation on Territorial Layout Plan No. 11/2006, PT Indotan ceased its exploitation activities. The exploitation activities are later carried out by locals beginning from early 2008. Since then, illegal miners from around Lombok and other regions of the country have swarmed into the gold-rich territory.
Undeniably, these illegal mining activities have been moving the economy in Sekotong. Profits flow in to not only the miners, but also the various supporting sectors. For example, there are jobs as dirt cleaners who clean the excess soil from gold mining operations off the mining site. Some have also opened soil/rock grinding centers known as “penggelundungan”.
Gold-bearing rocks are crushed using the grinding machine, down to the form of extracts (0.5 mm). Then it is purified using water, leaving the gold particles behind. This purification process utilizes mercury to act as a filter which traps the gold. The toxic waste is often disposed of recklessly, even though mercury is a poisonous chemical which poses a significant danger to human health.
Therefore, the West Lombok Regent’s effort of controlling and guiding the miners with proper knowledge of mining techniques, as well as organizing the mining zones, is the correct way to deal with this matter. Authorized mining activities are those which continue well into the future, are environmentally friendly, and work in perfect synergy with other sectors.
Until now Sekotong has been better known as a tourism destination with its beautiful nature, especially its breath-taking beaches and ocean scenery. Lately though, tourism investors are not the only ones interested in getting into Sekotong. Mining investors are also attracted to the potential in the region. Will the gold mines affect, in any way, the interest from tourism investors towards Sekotong?
Newmont’s Golden Shine
PT Newmont Nusa Tenggara dominates gold mining in Sumbawa Island
but its submarine-tailing disposal is still in the spotlight.
According to research, people around the mines depend too much on the international mining giant. THE gold deposits of Sumbawa Island, one of the largest islands in West Nusa Tenggara province, remain highly attractive. It’s not surprising then, if many investors are setting their eyes on the region. So far, PT Newmont Nusa Tenggara (NNT), which discovered the gold deposits in Batu Hijau back in the mid-1980s, has dominated the gold mining there. Aside from NNT, other gold mining companies currently operating in Sumbawa include PT Indotan and PT SAMI (Southern Arc Mineral Inc, a Canadian mineral exploration company).
As one of the major players of gold and copper mining in Sumbawa, the works of NTT naturally attract nationwide attention. That is because NNT sits among the ranks of the largest gold and copper mining companies in the nation (number one is PT Freeport Indonesia in Papua). The attention intensified when the central government brought NNT before international arbitration in 2008, in a divestment of shares case. As commonly known, international arbitration granted the plaintiff’s demand last year, ordering NNT to sell its remaining 17 percent of shares to the Indonesian government.
In Sumbawa, NNT holds mining permits in Batu Hijau, North Lunyuk, Elang, Rinti, and Panas Bay. Batu Hijau—located in the southwestern part of Sumbawa Island, in Jereweh and Sekongkang districts, Sumbawa regency, NTB—is the one place where NNT has begun to work and exploit so far. Batu Hijau mine delivered 455 million pounds of copper and 485,530 ounces of gold in 2009. The mine employs some 8,000 workers. Suffice to say, NNT generates quite a lot of exchange for both the local and national economy of Indonesia, with an overall value of Rp7.66 trillion, aside from Rp2.65 trillion in taxes and royalties paid to the regional and central administration in March 2009.
Only 40 percent of Batu Hijau resources have been extracted. With the remaining materials, Batu Hijau is predicted to deplete its content by 2014. Rocks in it stockpile will remain available for mining until 2025. These rocks are of medium- and low-grade gold content. Only after it exhausts Batu Hijau will NNT move on to the next mine, according to rumors.
Apart from the divestment case, one thing that has also sparked the concerns of many people is the disposal of mining waste (tailing) from NNT, which dumps it on the sea floor. Until now, NNT has dumped hundreds of tons of tailings in Senunu Bay. NNT uses submarine tailing disposal, said to be 17 percent cheaper compared to conventional methods, to deliver their waste load into the sea. This cheaper method had previously proven effective in destroying Buyat Bay in North Sulawesi.
However, according to NNT, this time they securely handle the waste at the Batu Hijau mining site. From the mine, tailings are carried to the coastline via a 13-kilometer-long pipeline, nearly 1 meter in diameter. Here, seawater helps dilute the tailing mud. Then, the waste is further carried down into a submerged pipe, which extends 3.2 kilometers from the coastline, 100 meters below the sea surface. The end of this pipe is the final destination for the waste mud: a seabed canyon, plunging down 3,400 meters deep into the ocean. Such a great depth is estimated will prevent the tailings from ever resurfacing.
Another problem of Batu Hijau is the exceptionally high dependency of people around the mining territory, including the population centers of Sekongkang, Jereweh, and Taliwang Brang Readan, on NNT. This statement comes from the result of a research on the dependency of people around the mine on NNT, conducted by the University of Indonesia. The dependency rate reaches 97 percent, or, in other words, almost totally on NNT. The dependency of these 107,402 people, living in an area 1,849 square kilometers, began when the mining infrastructure program started in 1996.
People must be continuously reminded that the mining will inevitably stop at some point. The development and empowerment of people around the mining area in education, health, agriculture, and infrastructure must be improved.
That, of course, doesn’t necessarily mean that there are no illegal miners in Sumbawa. They do exist, and usually obtain their “illegal” status by trespassing into an area whose mining right is owned by the gold mining company. The latest report came in last October, when illegal miners were spotted within the vicinity of an area contracted by NNT in Dodo-Rinti territory. Traditional miners enter unexploited areas, and nothing seems to be done to deal with them.
Traditional gold mining is also rampant in territories other than those owned by NNT, like in Lamuntet, Brang Rea district, and Seloto Taliwang in West Sumbawa regency, to name a few. These illegal mining activities are now contaminating the Taliwang River with mercury.
Investors are eyeing the gold potential of East Nusa Tenggara (NTT). But the NTT population tends to reject gold exploration and mining, fearing it will harm the public interest and damage the environment.
THE gold potential in the province of NTT has become a target of many investors, foreign and domestic. In the course of 2004-2007 alone, the administrations of West Manggarai, Central Manggarai and East Manggarai granted 20 mining concessions. However, mining operations are frequently seen as in opposition to the needs of society so that they are always subject to controversy.
Various protests and conflicts have emerged in Jakarta as well as regions. One of the complaints was lodged in August 2009. Around 200 people of NTT origin staged a demo in Jakarta against different mining operations in the province which increasingly aroused their concern. They indicated that gold exploration and mining had reduced agricultural land and harmed tourism. The situation worsened as they considered the mining activity incapable of optimally contributing to local people’s economic development.
The diverse cases exposed in the media mostly took place on Flores Island. In Lembata, various circles protested against mining operations for fear of harming community life and the environment. In Batugosok, a polemic arose because of this area’s position as a buffer zone of Komodo National Park. Meanwhile in Tebedo reaction was strong because mining was deemed destructive to a forest preserve.
Lembata is one of the regencies in NTT resulting from the split of East Flores regency on October 15, 1999. As are most regions in NTT, Lembata is comparatively dry and barren. Nonetheless, agriculture remains the economic basis of its people.
The mining potential has been well-known since the time of ethnic ancestors on Lembata Island. In the local tongue, they used to say Ihin weren laba lodan, meaning ‘gold deposits are in the ground’. This tradition led to the belief among residents that gold is what they inherit from their land. Surveys conducted by Japanese and American satellites in the 1970s confirmed this; according to a business portal, Nusacendanabiz.com, satellite scans showed that gold and copper reserves on Lembata Island were the third largest after Russia and Chile.
This gold potential was not left unexploited by a local investor. Starting in May 2005, a businessman from Rote (NTT), Jusuf Merukh, in cooperation with several foreign companies, initiated gold mining in Lembata through one of his subsidiaries, Merukh Lembata Copper (MLC). But this plan faced opposition from many parties. In December 2006, people in a number of villages rejected the project citing the damage to nature, their environments and means of living.
On March 14, 2009, the village community of Lewolein, an area in Lembata where gold deposits abound, intercepted a group of Lembata councilors as they were going to give information on Law No. 4/2009 on Mineral and Coal Mining.
The Mining Advocacy Network (JATAM), a mining non-governmental organization, through its website has put forward two considerations for rejecting mining operations in Lembata. First, Lembata is a dry and barren area. Water supply difficulty is the main problem. Mining operations that drain a lot of water, denude forests and excavate the earth surface and deeper layers create the potential for floods, landslides and a water crisis. Water will be more difficult to obtain and get polluted. Second, Lembata is disaster-prone due to its location on the path of an ever moving earth plate. Lembata is also within the circular belt of volcanoes.
Mining exploitation will cause faults in earth layers and crush the soil structure. Lembata Island may sink.
In the same tone as JATAM, the Community of Flores and Lembata Catholic Clergy in Jakarta has also rejected the presence of mining firms in Flores, Lembata and surrounding islands because Lembata is on the belt of volcanoes, in the region of an earth plate fault, with limited water supply, steep topography and a small island area.
The Leragere community in Lebatukan district, Lembata regency, has conducted regular actions in the Lembata council and the office of Regent Andreas Duli Manik in Lewoleba, the capital of Lembata, against any mining activity. They say no to mining not only because the activity will deprive them of their land, but also because it will make them lose their ancestral soil and identity.
Regent Duli Manik, as quoted by Antara news agency, said in Lebatukan only Lewolein was believed to possess the gold potential so that the Leragere community’s fear was exaggerated. Gabriel Suku Kotan, a Laragere resident, said his community was not to blame because locals had been informed that their land would be cleared when Merukh’s mining exploitation was realized.
Manik added that the area in Lebatukan with the potential for gold mining was only Lewolein village, but in order to ascertain the deposits contained, the company concerned would still have to undertake surveys and could not directly carry out exploitation.
Responding to the public protests, Merukh said the community was unaware of what the complaints were all about. He also added the protests from Leragere were sponsored by certain parties already utilized by US mining conglomerates.
To calm down the community, Jusuf Merukh said he would build an apartment to accommodate evicted residents and a school for students from kindergarten to senior high school levels. About Rp40 billion will be allocated for the education of Lembata’s children.
He hoped the community would not be too worried about environment damage because mining waste products would be dumped on land and would not be harmful to the surrounding environment.
Yet on the basis of previous experience, Merukh’s promises are doubted. Siti Memunah from JATAM, as published in Flores Pos, said the fate of people in the two mines whose shares were owned by Jusuf Merukh in Sumbawa and Minahasa was tragic. A total of 266 Buyat residents, North Sulawesi, were left in uncertain condition as their environment was rendered unhealthy by Newmont Minahasa Raya’s mining, with Merukh’s 20 percent shares in the firm. In NTT, Merukh also owned the shares of Newmont NTT. Local people reported eviction and a water crisis in the locations.
Merukh planned to begin his gold and mineral exploitation in Lembata in 2008. But the plan failed to materialize as several mining licenses were not signed by Lembata Regent Andreas Duli Manik owing to his company’s unsatisfactory environment impact analysis (Amdal). Merukh was also deemed incapable of turning out survey results on the gold and copper potential on the island.
In the west of Lembata, in West Manggarai, some areas are believed to be also rich in gold. West Manggarai Regent Wilfridus Fidelis Pranda in July 2008 signed concessions for mining in Batugosok, Tebedo and elsewhere with different investors.
Beginning mid-January 2009 a mining company from China, PT Grand Nusantara, conducted its activity in Batugosok, West Manggarai. In fact, Batugosok and its surrounding areas belong to a commercial tourism zone as stipulated in the West Manggarai Regional Regulation No. 30/2005. Batugosok is a buffer zone of Komodo National Park, which is part of the world’s natural heritage and nominated as one of the Seven Wonders of the World. The marine zone of Komodo National Park is home to around 1,000 species of decorative fish and deep-sea fish, with at least 50 spots of sea parks known as recreation areas for divers.
The tourism sector as the prized asset of West Flores was thus threatened. Agustinus Dawarja from the institute of Juctice, Peace and Integrity of Creation (JPIC) told Perspektif Baru radio that the growth of tourism in Flores since 1996 had been significant, among others due to the existence of Komodo National Park, the only one of its kind in the world. Without this park, it would be more difficult to promote West Flores as a tourist destination. Moreover, Komodo National Park is not only Flores’ asset, but also that of the world because of its only surviving species of ancient reptiles on this planet.
Conflict grew deeper when on May 13, 2009, then-Minister of Forestry M.S. Kaban issued a decree permitting the movement of 10 of 15 komodos remaining in Wae Wuul Nature Reserve, West Manggarai, NTT, to Bali. Spokesman for the East Nusa Tenggara Anti-Mining Community Alliance (Arang NTT) suspected the planned movement of being linked with the exploration project around Wae Wuul Nature Reserve, West Manggarai, NTT.
Some circles strongly criticized the mining activity. Many of them described the regional administration’s policy leading to the granting of mining concessions as contradictory. The effort to make a success of Komodo National Park as one of the world’s seven wonders was spoiled by the mining concessions in its buffer zone.
Theodorus Hamun, Chairman of the Association of Indonesian Tours & Travel (Asita), West Manggarai, as quoted by the Environment Information Center website, said Komodo National Park and its surrounding areas like Labuan Bajo and Batugosok, should have their environment conserved. Mining operations will spoil diving activity because mining waste products will drift into the sea.
Hendrik Siregar, Manager Critical Zone Advocacy of JATAM, told Tempo in 2009 that by damaging one of its buffer areas, the entire setup of the national park would also be damaged. Actually this park is among the cleanest and most exotic in the world.
Apart from disrupting Komodo National Park, mining also has the potential to damage the environment, harm tourism and violate local customs. The Group of Concern for Manggarai urged that mining operations be discontinued for causing environment destruction. Pius Ginting, a campaigner against mining from the Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi), told Antara that any mining activity would have the potential to create waste products and harm the environment.
The Manggarai community, according to Hendrik, disagrees with the opening of mines as they will threaten sources of life like water and soil fertility. The community felt its members had not been involved in mining licensing while the activity would affect their lives. Therefore, JATAM along with other organizations like Walhi and JPIC OPM insisted that the government terminate mining activity and urge the Regional House of Representatives to form a Special Committee.
Herry Maraden, a hotel owner in Batugosok, said his guests were disturbed by the excavation and filling of a hill. Land owners said they had never allowed the use of land for any mining operation. Licenses are not only issued for land complete with certificates, but land owners based on communal rights should be recognized as the regional administration obtains communal land from the community.
The West Manggarai Regional House of Representatives (DPRD) asked the regent to provisionally suspend the mining in Batugosok. Ambrosius Janggat, West Manggarai DPRD Deputy Speaker, said the council had not been consulted by the regent regarding the mining concessions.
West Manggarai Regent Wilfirdaus Fidelis Pranda, as quoted by the website of the State Minister for the Environment, just described the presence of mines as positive. In his view, the mines will change the barren area of Batugosok into one with high economic value because there will be side businesses like hotels and also access roads.
Head of the Mining and Energy Office of NTT, Bria Yohanes, said the activity undertaken by PT. Grand Nusantara had not yet damaged the environment as it was in the exploration phase. As published in Pos Kupang, he indicated the mining business knew no environment destruction, but it would change the environment from a condition previously untended by investors and without economic value, into one handled by investors and with high economic value.
To respond to the controversy over mining operations, Bria Yohanes said he would send a joint team from the province of NTT to closely inspect the process of gold mining exploration.
The State Minister for the Environment finally intervened by banning the mining. At a press conference on July 14, 2009, Minister Rachmat Witoelar stated the mining activity in Batugosok had to be terminated because the license granted deviated from regional spatial layout rules. The mining area was within a zone where mining is prohibited. The mining activity in Batugosok was seen as leading to exploitation. Before making the statement, the minister’s office had assigned a team to evaluate the activity in the location.
Still in West Manggarai, the exploration carried out by PT Sejahtera Prima Nusa Mining (SPNM) in Tebedo, Boleng district, 18 kilometers east of Labuan Bajo, also triggered a polemic. The government and NGOs differed in views about the damage caused by mining operations so that conflict arose.
Chairman of the Defense Team for Indonesian Democracy (TPDI) of NTT, Meridian Dewanta Dado, as quoted by Flores Pos, said based on an investigation conducted by activists of the Anti-Mining Community Movement (Geram) and other sources, the mining exploration already realized in Tebedo had damaged the forest zone of Bowosie RTK 108 with a radius of 700 meters. Besides, PT SPNM was suspected of having no license yet from the Minister of Forestry for mining exploitation.
Dado expressed his readiness to take action against the investors. The mining activity without the Forestry Minister’s license and within the forest preserve is liable to a maximum imprisonment of 10 years and a maximum fine of Rp5 billion.
The statement of the NTT Police Chief about the mining issue angered local NGOs. Chairman of Geram, a consortium of 40 anti-mining NGOs, Florianus Suryon, told Timor Express in the yard of the West Manggarai regency police office on January 9, 2010 that the NTT Regional Police Chief said the gold mine of Tebedo located in Pota Wangka village had ceased to operate after finding no minerals. Its miners had also left. Therefore, the police chief asked not to raise the issue any more. He also said the tree damage was minimum because bulldozers had hit a rocky hill instead of a forest. The work was also done for road building.
Geram strongly protested the NTT Police Chief’s account. Suryon said the police chief had claimed to have no precise knowledge of the mining in West Mangarai yet. In fact, the mining case had been handled by West Manggarai Police investigators for five months. Various circles were also disappointed by the statement. According to Father Robert, a representative of JPIC of the Ruteng Archbishopric, West Manggarai, what the police chief said did not reflect the reality of the actual issue. A law enforcer should have spoken according to the existing legal facts rather than assumptions. Coordinator of Greenpeace for West Manggarai, Father Marsel Agot SVD described the NTT Police Chief as mistaken in viewing the reality of the problem.
Obviously the pros and cons of gold exploitation in NTT will still go on. All parties need to see the problem clearly and seek the best solution so that gold mining can proceed without harming public interests and damaging the environment. The regional government and all public institutions in NTT should act as a fair intermediary, instead of even confronting their own communities.
Tempo Magazine Jakarta