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INDONESIA: Man Shot at Australian Gold Mine

Environment News Service
January 23rd, 2002

An Indonesian man has been shot by security police at an Australian gold mine in Indonesian Borneo.

At Aurora Golds Indo Muro Kencana mine on Friday, a BRIMOB security officer shot the local man in the head at close range. The 20 year old victim is in serious condition in hospital.

BRIMOB is the Indonesian government's military style police force which is providing security at the Indo Muro Kencana mine site. The gold mine is located in a remote area of Central Kalimantan, Indonesia, inhabited mainly by indigenous Dayak people.

On Saturday morning, the Dayak community staged an angry demonstration in response to the shooting. Some 100 people blockaded Aurora Gold's roads and processing plant demanding that the company take responsibility for the shooting and cease to have BRIMOB security personnel posted at their site. They left after disussion with company management.

From Aurora Gold's head office in West Perth, Australia, company secretary Michael Baud said the shooting was "part of a continuing series of incidents which have occurred, with illegal miners entering the mining site, being warned off by the Indonesian security forces and not responding to that. As I understand it a rubber bullet was fired by security forces which hit the illegal miner. It injured him but not fatally," Baud said.

"The shootings and deaths of local people on an Australian company's mine site must be investigated and must not be allowed to continue," says Geoff Evans, director of the nonprofit Mineral Policy Institute in Sydney, an advocacy group that watchdogs Australian based mining companies wherever they operate in the world.

Evans says Aurora Gold is "embroiled in conflict with the indigenous Dayak community, including traditional small scale miners whom Aurora brands 'illegal miners,' and wants off the companys mine lease area."

In a case study of the ongoing conflict at the Indo Muro gold mine, the international aid agency Oxfam said, "The communities complained that the small-scale mining activities of the people in and around the mining area, specifically those of the indigenous Dayak people, were unjustly disrupted and banned."

"People who were legally earning an income on what they regarded as their own traditional land - mining its natural resources - were unilaterally labelled by the government as illegal squatters when a foreign company appeared. They were forcibly removed, their housing and equipment seized and destroyed. Many people complained that they had been deprived of their main source of income, with little or no compensation," Oxfam said.

Mass deaths of fish in the rivers were witnessed by the communities on several occasions, attributed to pollution from the mine site. The communities have complained that there was a decline in the availability of clean water for cleaning and drinking, and for livestock.

Baud has a different view of the conflict. "There's been illegal mining at this site, and most other Indonesian mining sites for some three years, which has been controlled by cooperation between the company and the security forces, and the local people, I might add. And this is the first such incident for about 12 months. The situation has been well under control until this incident occurred."

In the past, on Aurora's mining concession, Evans charges, BRIMOB police have bulldozed and burned to the ground whole villages, harassed people at gunpoint, and arrested and detained without valid charges community members including women and children.

Evans says shootings at Aurora Gold last year resulted in two deaths. "On June 5, 2001 the same security force shot at community small-scale miners. Running for their lives, six people fled into a flooded mine pit. From the edge of the deep pit, the police fired gunshots and threw stones at the men. A 28 year old and an 18 year old were killed, and three others were wounded. Two months later on August 27, a boy in his early teens was shot and seriously wounded."

Baud says these deaths "were drownings by people who were operating illegally in the mine and fell in to the water at the bottom of a disused pit and drowned."

"Aurora Gold must remove the police force involved from duty as mine security. This should have been done months ago after the first shootings ended in local deaths," Evans says. "Australian companies are clearly responsible for ensuring forces with a record of human rights abuse do not operate as security on their sites."

But Baud says, "It is not possible to have private security forces in Indonesia. These are Indonesian government security forces."

Evans says that the June 5 incident came just days after the national newspaper, "Kompas," reported comments made by the Australian Ambassador to Indonesia, Richard C. Smith. The ambassador demanded that the government and security forces in Indonesia take measures to protect Australian business interests in Kalimantan and guarantee a secure climate for Australian investors. Smith made this request while visiting mine camp of Indo Muro Kencana.

A statement by Aurora Gold in December 2001 reveals that the production performance at Mt. Muro deteriorated in the second half of the year "as a result of unexpected operational difficulties which included drought-related logistical delays, recurrent failures in pit walls in the Bantian pits and receipt of out-of-specification blasting emulsions." Forecast metal production for the year has been reduced from 235,485 gold equivalent ounces to 220,000, a decline of 6.6 percent.

Asked if the company will do anything differently in light of this shooting, Baud says, "The company is always reviewing its situation on illegal mining, its security, and its response to people who are in fact allowed into the site on some occasions and have their own mining areas on the site. There are also security procedures which are governed by the Indonesian security forces themselves, and how they intend to respond to this incident, I don't know."





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