Mining company told to halt exploration after clash
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The North Sumatra Legislative Council demanded on Monday that PT Sorikmas Mining temporarily halt its gold mining exploration activities in Mandailing Natal regency after members of the local community clashed on Saturday with police and the company’s security personnel.
The council’s deputy speaker, Chaidir Ritonga, expressed concern that clashes would expand and claim additional victims, especially because of the growing resistance from the community over the project. Saturday’s incident, he said, was not the first to have occurred.
“This is a time bomb that can explode at any time,” Ritonga told The Jakarta Post, on Monday, underlining the importance of a temporary halt for the dispute to be solved and settled.
Dozens of people, including police personnel, were injured and a number of PT Sorikmas Mining’s facilities were set on fire during Saturday’s clash in Naga Juang district, Mandailing Natal.
Ritonga said the provincial legislative council had issued a recommendation for the halt of exploration activities in Dec. 2011. Yet, the company did not seem to follow the recommendation and instead received a license to exploit a protected forest from the local administration.
He accused the provincial and regency administrations of being weak on the mining company by letting it continue to operate and giving it a license despite the council’s recommendation to halt activities.
“This is weird. The administrations should have supported the council and not done otherwise,” said Ritonga, adding that the council would summon both the provincial and regency administrations for clarification.
PT Sorikmas Mining is 75 percent owned by Australian Aberfoyle Pungkut Invesment Pty., Ltd. with state-owned company PT Aneka Tambang controlling the remaining 25 percent.
The company received an exploration contract license from the Forestry Ministry in 1998. It has an operation area of 66,200 hectares in Mandailing Natal, but only 32,560 hectares have been explored as the remaining 33,640 hectares are claimed to be located within the Batang Gadis National Park area.
The company’s public relations director, Nurul Fajrie, said that PT Sorikmas Mining had implemented the legislative council’s recommendation following a clash with the local community in May 2012. He said it had temporarily halted its exploration activities and resumed only after the condition was considered stable.
“We don’t need to temporarily halt exploration activities at present because the situation is stable already,” Nurul told The Post over the phone on Monday.
Commenting on the weekend’s clash, Nurul blamed the incident on the interests of particular community groups who wanted the mining site in Sambung to be handed over to the community. He said it was impossible for the company to fulfill the demand.
“The company has invested hugely in Sambung because of its big prospects. It’s impossible to give it to the community,” said Nurul, adding that the company would continue to operate despite Saturday’s clash.
Separately, the head of North Sumatra’s Mining Agency, Untungta Kaban, said that his agency had no authority to ask PT Sorikmas Mining to halt its exploration activities because the authority to do so was in the hands of the central government.
“The working contract of PT Sorikmas Mining was made with the central government not with regional administrations,” he said.
The police said that as of Monday, the situation at the clash site was stable and that three people were in police custody for questioning.