Stop Operation, Immediately Evaluate and Rehabilitate

East Halmahera, 16 April 2021 – On 7 April 2021, PT Aneka Tambang (ANTAM) mining activities at the Moronopo site, Maba Pura Village, Maba City District, East Halmahera Regency, North Maluku, polluted rivers and coasts, and damaged the mangrove ecosystem.

The incidents of mining mud pollution are not the first but have frequently occurred since ANTAM started to enter and operate in 2006. In the past, this area of ​​Moronopo was the place where Maba and Buli residents caught fish. Here the fish spawn. The fishermen also make this place for mooring boats, as well as a transit point.

When ANTAM operated, everything changed. Agricultural/plantation land on the slopes of a mountain has been converted into a mining area. When the rainy season arrives, mining waste can easily flow into coastal areas, even though the sea, the fishing area.

ANTAM’s Bad Footprint

ANTAM’s mining activities in North Maluku have been going on for a long time. From 1979 to 2004, for example, PT ANTAM destroyed Gebe Island. Most of the plantation land that the residents had cultivated was converted into mining concessions.

After about 25 years of dredging the island’s core, several damages have occurred, starting from the loss of water sources for residents to buy clean water, polluted seas, coral reefs, mangroves, copra, nutmeg, cloves, and sago. As for the reclamation and corporate social responsibility (CSR) of the company, it is not sufficient to recover the socio-ecological damage, including changes in the production and consumption patterns of residents dependent on the mining economy.

Ironically, when ANTAM decided to stop and leave Gebe Island, instead of continuing economic, social and ecological recovery efforts, the regional government of Central Halmahera issued 12 new mining permits to several companies. It, of course, has exacerbated the damage to the landscape and the production space for the people of Gebe Island.

Apart from Gebe Island, ANTAM’s bad footprint in North Maluku also occurred on Gee Island. This small island, which only covers 171 hectares, has been dredged by ANTAM since 2003 through PT Minerina Bhakti, ANTAM’s subsidiary. As a result, the island that was once lush, a place for people’s food reserves and a place for fishers to stop by while at sea, is barren. There is no reclamation whatsoever; just let it be.

ANTAM then turned to Pakal Island. Adjacent to Gee Island. ANTAM started mining for nickel on this 709-hectare island in 2010. At the same time, ANTAM is also mining on the mainland of East Halmahera, to be precise, the northern part of Buli Village, Maba District.

ANTAM’s mining activities on Pakal Island and the mainland of East Halmahera are part of the same mining concession through a mining permit issued by the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources in 2000 concession areas ​​39,040 hectares. Apart from mining nickel, ANTAM is also building a nickel smelter located in Maba Pura, precisely in Tanjung Buli.

ANTAM’s expansive activities, including several other mining companies in East Halmahera, have left Halmahera and its small islands dying.

Mining has uncovered the island’s bowels so that damage is not only to the land area (food and water production space) and sea space (fishing area), which is contaminated with mining materials.

The glory of nutmeg, coconut (copra), sago, and cloves, which previously served as the backbone of the people’s economy, has almost disappeared. The residents are then made dependent on the mining economy, which is fragile and, for a moment, does not guarantee the sustainability and future of their children and grandchildren.

Likewise with coastal and marine areas; If previously fishers in Tanjung Buli, Pulau Pakal, and other small islands around them were young to get fish, now it is getting more difficult. It is caused by marine pollution due to mining materials and the passing of ships and barges carrying ore.

Research by the Bogor Agricultural Institute in 2007 confirmed the evidence of this pollution. The researchers found a biological oxygen demand and a chemical oxygen demand – an indicator of marine pollution – in the Buli Sea of ​​23-37 milligrams per liter and 27-75 milligrams per liter. Far at the threshold of the usual sea.

The research mentions open-pit mining by stripping mountains, gradually changing the landscape of Tanjung Buli. In addition, ocean erosion and sedimentation are a threat that damages ecosystems if they are not immediately reclaimed.

It Needs Real Action, No More Discourses

The ongoing expansion of the destruction of land, coastal and marine areas in East Halmahera, if allowed to continue, will increase the risk to the safety of residents and space for food and water production. Mining, which is greedy for land and water, has its destructive power at mining sites and other areas around mining concessions and downstream areas.

The complexity of this destructive force is borne by the residents, who decide to defend their living space, and some residents who work in mining companies. The destructive force, of course, lasts a long time, even beyond the life of the mine operation itself.

Thus, saving the people’s living space and ecosystem, both on the remaining land, coast, and sea, is essential and urgent.

To that point, we urge:

  • The central and regional governments must immediately make policies that lead to the rescue and protection of the remaining living space of residents, starting from food and water areas, forest areas, and coastal and marine areas as fishing areas for fishers.
  • Suspend all mining operations on land, coastal areas, and small islands in East Halmahera, conduct a comprehensive audit and evaluation, from licensing policies to mining activities on site.
  • Immediately rehabilitate all damage, both on the mainland of East Halmahera, the coast, and small islands that have been damaged due to mining operations.
    Perform strict law enforcement on all environmental crimes committed by mining companies.

Contact person:

Muh Ruh – Resident of Mabapura, Haltim – 081242040671

Adlun Fiqry – AMAN Malut – 081314012618

Melky Nahar – JATAM – 081319789181


Editor’s note:

Gebe Island Report:

Impact of Nickel Mining on Fishing Areas in the Waters of East Halmahera Regency