Down to Earth No. 56, February 2003

Rio Tinto: practise what you preach!

The efforts of UK-based mining company Rio Tinto to convince the world of its commitment to human rights have suffered another blow. According to media reports, in December, the family of human rights defender and poet Wiji Thukul rejected a human rights award funded by the company. For the past two years, Rio Tinto has contributed funds to the Yap Thiam Hien Human Rights Award, won this year by Wiji Thukul, who has been missing since 1996. The family said they refused the award because Rio Tinto was involved in several human rights violations at its mining operations in Indonesia and was responsible for the 1992 arrest of demonstrators who were demanding proper compensation for the use of their land.

In a statement supporting the family's stance, Indonesian NGOs JATAM, WALHI and TATR list some of the human rights violations involving Rio Tinto, including those at the PT KEM mine in East Kalimantan, investigated by Indonesia's National Human Rights Commission (Komnas HAM) in 1999 and 2000. These covered cases of sexual abuse and rape against sixteen women between the ages of nine and eighteen; the arrest of 15 demonstrators in 1992 and the subsequent death of one of them; forced eviction by the Indonesian military of traditional miners and burning of hundreds of houses between 1982 and 1991. The statement also lists Rio Tinto's involvement in cases through its shareholdings in the Freeport Indonesia copper and gold mine in West Papua (Rio Tinto has a 15% share); the Kaltim Prima Coal mine (co-owned with BP); Papua New Guinea's Lihir gold mine and the Panguna mine on Bougainville. The statement calls on the executors of the Yap Thiam Hien Award Program no longer to accept funding from human rights violators. "The human rights violators must not be given the opportunity to wash themselves clean of responsibility for their actions…"

(Source: JATAM, WALHI, TATR Press Release 19/Dec/02; Jakarta Post 20/Dec/02)

Dirty business at Rio Tinto's CPM Sulawesi concession

Citra Palu Minerals, a company owned by Rio Tinto, is attempting to persuade members of the local community opposed to mining plans to change their minds, according to a report in Kerebok, the newsletter of mining advocacy network, JATAM. The names of 313 people appeared on a document supporting the company's plans to develop a gold mine in an area of community-owned forest land in Poboya, Central Sulawesi. 100 of the names should never have been included, a subsequent survey revealed. People hired by CPM to gather signatures "enticed the community to sign their petition with the use of money and promises," according to Kerebok. "Showered with money and promises", around half of the villagers previously opposed to mining signed the petition, triggering conflict within the Poboya community.

In December last year, local NGOs in Sulawesi reported that Rio Tinto commissioned the UK-based company Control Risks Group, to meet people at Palu's state university (Universitas Tadulako); the Islamic training college Al-khairat (the biggest Muslim organisation in eastern Indonesia, which is based in the provincial capital Palu); a Poboya village official and some NGOs. The NGOs believe the aim of the visit was to investigate the strengths and weaknesses of the opposition and to look into ways of allowing mining to go ahead in Poboya-Palu. The meeting in Poboya persuaded the village head not to continue his support for community opposition - a stance which became evident at a meeting on December 6th when he asked local people to allow the company to go ahead with mining.

Last year Rio Tinto assured DTE and other NGOs that it had no intention to develop a gold mine at Poboya, but was in the process of selling its concession. The sale is dependent on mining being approved, but late last year it was reported that Indonesian government had rejected CPM's application to permit mining in the concession, part of which lies in the Poboya-Paneki Forest Park. (See DTE 55 and 43-54:4 for more background and information on community opposition to mine development.)

(Source Kerebok Vol 3/25, August 2002, email from Sulawesi NGOs received 12/Dec/02.)

Government plans emergency regulation
to allow mining in forests

Indonesian NGOs are opposing a planned government regulation which will allow mining to go ahead in protected forest areas. The proposed legislation is a 'Government Regulation to Replace a Law' (Peraturan Pemerintah Pengganti Undang-Undang or Perpu) which is only designed to be used in a state of emergency and does not require parliamentary approval. The NGOs opposing the planned Perpu regard it as the latest attempt by the mining industry, fully supported by the government, to get round the 1999 forestry law which prohibits open-pit mining in protected forests (see DTE 55 for background). The NGOs, JATAM, WALHI, TATR and Forest Watch Indonesia, say they will call for a judicial review if the government goes ahead with the regulation (Press Release 14/Jan/03 on

Are community protestors terrorists?

The latest edition of Kerebok also contains an analysis of the relation between post-Bali anti-terrorism legislation and the mining industry. Article Six of Regulation No.1/2002 states that terrorist actions include violence or violent threats which cause damage or destruction to strategic vital projects. The term "vital projects" (provit), is usually used to describe large commercial projects like mines and oil or gas operations which bring in large amounts of revenue for the state. The regulation has profound implications for communities in dispute with mining companies, because the danger is that it will be open to misinterpretation and abuse by the government, military and others. The concern is that communities struggling to defend their rights against mining or other projects could be treated as terrorists if it suits the authorities. "Is a community action deemed negative for a mining company also deemed a terrorist action?…Is the peaceful blockade of a street used by Unocal by the Marangkayu community also an act of terrorism?" (Kerebok Vol 3/25, August 2002)

Stop mining and logging in South Kalimantan's forests!

A coalition of 27 NGOs and indigenous groups in South Kalimantan are calling for a moratorium on all mining and logging activities in the province's forests and demanding that the government reject all future plans for mining and logging within customary and protection forests. They say that mined and logged over areas must be restored by the government and companies. In a statement issued in Jakarta, the groups said that current legislation must be upheld and offenders prosecuted, while respecting the traditions and rights of local communities.

The statement said that despite millions of tonnes of coal being exploited, South Kalimantan's people had not benefited, while their environment had been badly degraded and their customary rights ignored.

In December, a group of local people from Hulu Sungai Utara called for a stop to foreign exploitation of coal in their district, arguing that Kalimantan's rich coal fields should be mined by local firms so that local people reap more of the benefits. ( 19/Nov/02; email posting by Aliansi Meratus 13/Dec/02).

No need for mines!

Mining for minerals, an industry which causes widespread destruction, could be largely replaced by re-use and recycling, according to the Washington-based Worldwatch Institute. In its 2003 State of the World report, the institute says that mining consumes 10% of the world's energy, spews out toxic emissions and threatens 40% of the world's undeveloped forests, but these effects could be drastically reduced. The report also says that renewable energy technologies have now developed sufficiently to supply the world, but that currently there is a lack of political will to introduce them fast enough. The report predicts that the human race has only one or perhaps two generations to rescue itself.

(Guardian 9/Jan/03)

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