Jongker Rumteh, The Jakarta Post, Manado
Few governors in Indonesia would turn down mining investment commitments valued at billions of rupiah, but North Sulawesi Sinyo Harry Sarundajang did.
Sarundajang says his decision Monday not to approve a controversial gold mining proposal by PT Meares Soputan Mining (MSM) in North Minahasa regency and Bitung is related to his commitment to being a ""green"" governor.
In addition, he does not want to undermine his own campaign to host the 2009 World Ocean Summit in Manado.
""In a recent hearing with members of the House of Representatives, I was condemned for turning down badly needed investments ... however, I prefer to be a green governor rather than allowing the destruction of our environment,"" Sarundajang said in a press conference.
The governor said that when he was still the mayor of Bitung several years ago, the issue of PT MSM managing a gold mine had come up, so he was familiar with the waste management problems involved.
It is up to the central government to decide whether to allow PT MSM to dump tailings, or mining waste, into the sea, Sarundajang said, but the North Sumatra provincial administration controlled whether they could be disposed of on the ground.
""PT MSM plans to dump tailings on the ground; I rejected the plan. In order to strengthen my refusal, I asked the Environment Ministry to perform an environmental audit,"" he said.
""Seventy-five days after the audit, the governor is supposed to state his position, but before the deadline I sent a letter to the minister informing him of my refusal to allow the operation of the company in our region,"" Sarundajang said.
His first reason, he said, was that he did not have the technology, experts and instruments to accurately monitor the environmental impact of the tailings disposal.
The second reason was that the proposed mine was located near the Lembeh Strait, the Bunaken National Park and the Tangkoko Nature Conservation Center.
""The mine is located close to various tourism objects, a fishing area and a nature conservation center and if I approve the investment plan, what about the future of those activities?"" he said.
""That is all the background to my refusal of the investment plan. I don't have the stomach to watch the destruction of nature in our area. Moreover in 2009 the World Ocean Summit will be held in Manado, where various issues will be discussed, especially how to prevent natural catastrophes,"" he said.