NGOs hope new investigation will end confusion over Buyat Bay

Tempo Interactive – November 1, 2004
Polluted beach at Buyat Bay in East Java (Tribune)
Polluted beach at Buyat Bay in East Java (Tribune)

RR Ariyani, Jakarta – A grouping of non-government organisations (NGOs) who are handling the Buyat Bay pollution case including the Indonesian Environmental Forum (Walhi) and the Mining Advocacy Network (Jatam) hope that an integrated technical team will be able to act independently. “We hope that the tem will work seriously and independently, so that today [we] can get a final conclusion”, said Jatam national coordinator, Siti Maimunah, at a break during a meeting of the technical team at the Kalpataru Rooms on Monday November 1.

Maimunah said that the technical team which has already finished the difficult aspects of the investigation into the charges of pollution in the Buyat Bay case has been quite productive. “We hope that their results will put an end to the public’s confusion as a result of PT Newmont’s publication and the one sided report by the minister of the environment, Nabiel Makarim, [which was published] on its web site dated October 19”, she said.

Raja Siregar, also from Walhi, concurred with Maimunah saying that the investigation by the integrated team is different from the investigations conducted by the World Health Organisation (WHO), the Minamata Insitute and the Australian Research Agency CSIRO. “Our investigation is the most comprehensive and thorough”, he said. The reason said Siregar is that the NGO’s investigation includes all of the physical, chemical and biological aspects which are related to the quality of the environment in the Buyat Bay waters as well as the potential impact on marine life and people’s health.

According to Siregar, what differentiates the integrated team’s study from previous ones is that it looks at the actual conditions of the bay and local people as well as the source of the pollution. The press release which was released by Walhi and Jatam on October 31 included a rebuttal against a number of international experts from the CSIRO and WHO.

The press statement quoted Dr Alan Tingay, an environmental expert with experience as a consultant in the field of mining who said, “CSIRO’s data clearly shows that millions of tons of tailings from Newmont in the Buyat Bay are the source of the toxic metals which are continuing [to accumulate]”. He explained that although it is still unclear if Newmont is the source of the health problems because of the waste it is dumping, for now Newmont must end the release of toxic chemicals into the bay which is forms the basis of the local people’s livelihood.

In order to strengthen their argument, the press statement also quoted David Silver MD, an assistant clinical professor from the Department of Preventative Medicines and Biometrics from the Colorado University in the United States, who visited Buyat Bay not long ago. According to Silver, “Newmont has been too hasty in announcing that they are not at fault”.

He explained that there is no need to continue debating about the local people who are suffering from a range of chronic health problems. “We should not eliminate the long term possibilities of the chemicals which are found in the tailings such as: arsenic, ammonia, cadmium, cyanide, zinc, lead, copper and nickel, although in low quantities it can contribute to the health problems of the local people”, he said.

[Translated by James Balowski.]