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Mining firm to pump waste direct into river

Locals say the river is vital for thousands

Local leader Bangun Siregar strongly objects to the waste disposal plan Local leader Bangun Siregar strongly objects to the waste disposal plan
  • Ryan Dagur, Jakarta
  • Indonesia
  • November 8, 2012
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A gold and silver mining company in North Sumatra will channel waste from its processes directly into a local river, beginning November 11, it says.

The project by the  Martabe company, owned by PT Agincourt Resources -- a subsidiary of Hong Kong-listed gold producer G-Resources Group Ltd. - was restarted in October after being suspended for two months because of local residents' protests.

The Batang Toru River passes through 25 villages in three sub-districts and supports thousands of people.

“Almost all residents use the water from the river for daily needs such as drinking, bathing and irrigating rice fields,” Bangun Siregar, a local leader, said yesterday in Jakarta. “We strongly reject the plan."

Siregar added that the company claimed to have conducted an analysis on the mine's possible environmental impact. But he claimed that it did not involve local residents.

"A clause in the analysis says that the river is not used by the local residents," he said. "In fact, thousands of people rely on it."

Baktiar Situmorang, who lives in Hapesong Baru village in Toru sub-district, said he uses water from the river daily.

“I use it for drinking, bathing and washing clothes. If the river is polluted, where can I get water?” he asked.

Abetnego Tarigan, national executive director of the Indonesian Forum for the Environment, said the claim that the river is unused “is a serious violation of environmental protection and management.”

He said the waste from gold and silver processing contains mercury, cyanide and arsenic.

However, Peter Albert from Martabe claimed that the analysis was approved by the district head in March 2008.

Besides installing the 2.7 km pipeline to the river, he said the company will also build a pond which will be filled with the waste from the gold and silver processing. The pond will be populated with fish, to demonstrate to residents that the waste will not be poisonous.

“We will allow anyone who wants to see the pond directly,” he said.

In September, G-Resources halted gold mining activities after growing protests from local residents against its plan to install the pipeline.

After the stoppage of operations, the company started to lay off part of its 1,500 workforce, most of them local residents.

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