Down to Earth No. 52, February 2002

Brimob shooting at Aurora mine

A man was seriously wounded as violence against the local community continues at Aurora's gold mine in Central Kalimantan.

On January 19th a mobile brigade police officer from the Central Kalimantan police force shot a young man at Aurora's Krikil I mine site in North Barito district. The man, named Gunawan, was searching through waste rock at the minesite in Tanah Siang sub-district, when he and two others were discovered by four mobile brigade (Brimob) personnel. Gunawan was shot in the head by a bullet fired at close range. He was taken to the mine's clinic, then to Muara Teweh hospital where he was reported to be in a critical condition.

The district police chief, who says the case is being investigated, claims the victim may have been hit by a stray rubber bullet when the Brimob officer was firing warning shots. Last June, two men were killed during another incident involving Brimob guards. They were shot at and pelted with stones after being chased into a flooded pit at the mine site. In a separate incident, a teenage boy was seriously injured. The previous year, fifteen indigenous miners were arrested during an armed Brimob raid. Families from the Siang, Murung and Berkumpai Dayak were hauled out of bed and their houses were then torn down, (see DTE 47. Tension in the area has been high since 1999 when local communities staged a non-violent re-occupation of traditional mining areas taken over by the company. Years of peaceful protest had got no response (see DTE 43).

PT Indo Muro Kencana (IMK), the mine's operator, is fully owned by Australia's Aurora Gold. The mine opened in late 1994 and has produced over a million ounces of gold and over 23 million oz of silver. In order to do so it has dug up 10 million tonnes of ore and over 48 million tonnes of waste rock. Its activities affect some 20,000 people in twelve villagers. The mine is due for closure later this year, but the company says there may be other mineable reserves in its concession area.

Aurora has consistently evaded responsibility for the violence at the mine and claims that the company has no choice but to accept Brimob presence at the site. In an interview with the Australia's ABC, the mine's chief operations manager, Joe Ariti, said the police hadn't discussed the circumstances of the shooting with Aurora.

"We don't control the security forces, they are placed at the site under a Duty Order to protect foreign investment and assets and personnel. So we don't give instructions to that effect, and certainly it concerns us at any stage when people get shot, whatever the circumstances."

This argument is not valid: the company would have been aware of the security arrangements before it took over the mine, but it took the decision to proceed and must bear responsibility for human rights violations at the site.

Geoff Evans from Australia's Mineral Policy Institute comments:
"The point is that it is not in the interests of local people to have this company engage in large scale mining operations where it requires the support of the police to enforce its ability to make a profit. The company would not be allowed to do this sort of thing or have this sort of relationship with police if it was operating in Australia."

The January shooting sparked angry protests from villagers living near the site, who demanded that PT IMK be held accountable for the action. According to mining advocacy network JATAM, they blockaded access roads to the main processing plant and mining location and destroyed company equipment. They also demanded that:

JATAM points out that these issues must be settled before the mine closes. Aurora plans to shut down the mine in September this year and to conduct monitoring activities until 2005.

The Central Kalimantan branch of environmental organisation WALHI has called for the company to restore the environment fully so that local people can grow crops again on the strip-mined area. It also wants "rational" compensation for the damage suffered by local people. Aurora says it spends 1.3% of annual revenues on community development projects. The company has made no indication that it will respond to demands for compensation.

Less Brimob at the mine, more for Central Kalimantan?

Following the shooting, police Central Kalimantan police chief Brig-Gen Lodewyk announced that all but two teams of Brimob personnel would be withdrawn in stages from the Aurora site. They will be replaced by another special police unit (Unit Perintis Sabhara) from the North Barito police command. He did not say how many Brimob personnel were originally stationed at the site, or how many policemen make up a 'team'.

Lodewyk also revealed plans to establish a mobile brigade police command headquarters in the area, located in Ampah, South Barito district. He said between 2 and 3 battalions would be stationed there. With 600-700 men in a battalion this means up to 2,100 men - extremely bad news for local communities struggling to defend customary rights to lands and resources in the region. Brimob forces are notorious throughout Indonesia for their brutality in suppressing community action in land cases (see first article) and in protecting the interests of multinational companies like Exxon in Aceh.

JATAM has compiled a report on IMK with detailed background information on the impact of the mine on local communities. See

(Source: Bpost 21, 29/Jan/02; ABC transcript 25/Jan/02; JATAM letter 22/Jan/02)

Back to newsletter contents    DTE Homepage    Campaigns    Links