Thursday, 7th July 2022, more than two hundreds of Sangihe Island residents, who spread in Jabodetabek (Jakarta, Bogor, Depok, Tangerang, Bekasi), along with the civil society joined in Save Sangihe Island (SSI) coalition, held a mass action in front of the office of Mineral and Coal General Director of Energy and mineral Resources Ministry and continued to the office of the Canadian Embassy in Indonesia. This action was taken to urge cancellation and revocation of gold mining operation of PT Tambang Mas Sangihe (PT TMS), a mining company from Canada, which has started its operational activity on Sangihe Island, North Sulawesi. Save Sangihe Island coalition itself is a forum of residents of the small Island Sangihe formed to fight for the rights of the residents’ living space and safety of the island from destructive power of PT TMS gold mining.

Sangihe Island, one of the outmost small islands in Indonesia, which also borders Philippines, covers only 763,98 km2 area and becomes natural habitat of a rare, threatened with extinction bird named Seriwang Sangihe (Eutrichomyias rowleyi) or commonly known with its local name, living Niu. The residents depends their life on natural resources on the island, both agricultural activities on the land and fisheries resources on coastal area to the sea. This small island also well-known for its beautiful underwater view that flanked by two underwater active volcanoes. One of them is the highest underwater volcano in the world.

On the other hand, Sangihe is situated at the ring of fire, which means it has tsunami and earthquake potentials with multiple and unavoidable risk if the living space of 139.262 Sangihe residents is destroyed by mining activities. The existence of PT TMS mine becomes a real threat for all life there, not only the ones on the land, but also those on coastal area to the sea, as well as the air.

This seems like a disaster or suffering is going to befall us all, but of course this is not a natural one; it is an industrial disaster,” said Jull Takaliuang, an initiator of the SSI.

Now, more than a half of the Sangihe Island covering 42.0000 Ha specifically, has been considered mining concession of PT TMS by the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources (ESDM). The consideration issued for a period of January 2021 to January 2054. Meanwhile, its environmental license issued by North Sulawesi Provincial Government on an area of 65.48 Ha. Majority of the company’s shareholding (70%) is owned by Sangihe Gold Corporation from Kanada. The rest is owned by a national company, PT Sungai Belayan Sejati as of 10%, PT Sangihe Prima Mineral 11 %, and PT Sangihe Pratama Mineral 9%.

In addition, during issuance of Contract of Work, operational status improvement, environmental licenses to the issuance of the environment permit, all were done without sufficient participations of the residents. Even worse, it violated a series of statutory regulations and law principles. Therefore, it is not surprising that protests and resistances are intensely carried out by the residents to reject the existence of this company. One of the people’s way of resistances is through lawsuits in courts.

First, the contract of Work of PT TMS No. 163.K/MB.04/DJB/2021 was sued at the Administrative Court of Jakarta (PTUN Jakarta). Then, the Environmental Permit No. 503/DPMPTSPD/IL/IX/2020 which was issued by the One Stop Integrated Licensing and Investment Service (DPMPTSP) of North Sulawesi was sued by 56 women from a village called Bowone, Sangihe Island.

The contract of Work of PT TMS lawsuit in Jakarta has now undergoing an appeal court at the State Administrative High Court of Jakarta (PTUN Jakarta), for the previous level the PTUN Jakarta avoided examining the subject matter or main substance by stating that administrative court had no authority to adjudicate the contract of work. However, the lawsuit on environmental license of PT TMS has won at the State Administrative Court of Manado (PTUN Manado) on 2nd June 2022. The decision cancelled the environmental license of PT TMS and postponed all the activities of PT TMS.

Based on the decision from PTUN Manado, PT TMS actually has no legal legitimacy for implementing its mining operation on Sangihe Island, for the environmental license as its legal basis for operational license has been cancelled by the decision of PTUN Manado. Likewise, if it is associated to the Article 35 point K of Law No. 27/2007 Jo. 1/2014 concerning Management  of Coastal Areas and Small Islands, coastal areas and small islands are prohibited for mineral mining activities it cause social and ecological conflicts. “Social conflicts on Sangihe Islands has been increasing by days, means that PT TMS once again, has no social legitimation,” said Samsared Barahama, an environmental activist from Sangihe Island.

Instead of complying the court’s decision, PT TMS contrarily carried out defiance. On Wednesday, 13th June 2022, the company kept mobilizing heavy equipment to the site in Bowone village via Panaru port. This effort to bring the equipment was guarded by police and military apparatus. Fortunately, the residents managed to expel the equipment which consisted by three units and were instantly taken out of Sangihe Island on 16th June 2022. The company clearly does not have any permits, and all activities carried out by the company should be declared illegal and against the law.

PT TMS’s efforts did not stop there. Robison Saul, one of the residents of Sangihe who took part in the action to intercept heavy equipment earlier, was named a suspect by the Sangihe Islands resort police. On 30th June 2022, Robison Saul attended investigators’ summons and was immediately arrested on the same day. Robison was accused of carrying a sharp weapon as in violation of Article 2 Paragraph (1) of the Emergency Law No. 12/1951 for allegedly carrying a white iron knife when confronting heavy equipment. Whereas the white iron knife is an heirloom inherited from Robison’s father-in-law. The knife was used daily for fishing; to cut baits, to cut anchor ropes, and to clean oysters. “The Sangihe Islands Police clearly fabricated criminal charges against Robison, and we suspect this is a form of repression and criminalization of environmental human rights defender,” said Jan Takasihaeng, SSI Coordinator.

In this action, SSI coalition also shouted for the Head of Indonesian National Police and the Military Commander of the Republic of Indonesia to prohibit their officers from carrying out repressive and intimidate actions and criminalization against Sangihe Island residents who defend their homeland from mining destructive power, and release Robison Saul – an environmental defender who is currently arrested by the Sangihe Resort Police. Meanwhile, in the action held in front of the Canadian Embassy, SSI coalition urged Canadian government to audit and even to punish every Canadian company that destroy living spaces and cause social conflicts anywhere in Indonesian archipelago, especially PT TMS on the small island Sangihe.

Save Sangihe Island (SSI) Coalition

  • Jan Takasihaeng (SSI) – 082348621456
  • Ewin (JATAM) – 085241565513