Monday, October 24, 2005

Gold Mining in Indonesia

No Dirty Gold

Oxfam, the coolest and best aid agency in the world, is running a "No dirty gold" campaign. It seems to be at the right time, or getting good results, because Tiffany (the New York jeweller) recently wrote a "letter advertisement", published in the Washington Post signed by the Chairman of the Board which contained paragraphs like this:
"This huge mine would discharge millions of gallons of waste water per day conveying pollutants to the Clark Fork River and ultimately into Lake Pend Oreille in Idaho, a national treasure in its own right. Vast quantities of mine tailings -- a polite term for toxic sludge -- would be stored in a holding facility of questionalble durability."
It led to this not particularly impressive response:
“I was stunned that a person of Mr. Kowalski’s stature and obvious business acumen would write a letter like that,” said Laura Skaer, head of the Northwest Mining Association in Spokane."
and this much much more insidious one:
"Agriculture Undersecretary Mark Rey said the Tiffany letter was filled with errors and misconceptions. Rey contended the proposed mine would follow strict controls to protect wildlife and waterways.

Critics also should consider that the alternative to mining for precious metals in the United States is mining in undeveloped countries that lack environmental protections, Rey said. He added: 'I don’t think that’s what Tiffany wants.'”
Now, the villagers of Buyat Bay in North Sulawesi are suing Newcrest Mining over its operations there, though it seems communication between the plaintiffs and their lawyers isn't too flash, and there's a hint of a slap writ in Newcrest's defamation proceedings against the lawyers. Oxfam says:
"NMR pipes its mining waste approximately ten kilometers from the open-pit and discharges it into Buyat Bay at a depth of 82 meters. Since it opened in 1996, the mine has dumped more than 4 million tons of mine waste into the bay."
The photograph is of a kid from the village whose parents reckon her skin problems are caused by the mine effluent. The villagers are also reporting "skin rashes and sores on their bodies, severe headaches, tumors and reproductive health problems."


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