Submission - Received 25 April 2002
Vatutela and Poboya Bulili, INDONESIA
Submitted by Tracy Glynn
JATAM -Jaringan Advokasi Tambang
Mining Advocacy Network
Jl. Mampang Prapatan II No. 30
RT 04/07 -- Jakarta 12790 INDONESIA
Tel. +62-(0)21-794 1559 Fax. +62-(0)21-791 81683
CASE STUDY: Poboya Forest Park Threatened
by Rio Tinto's PT CPM Mining Plans
Rio Tinto's PT Citra Palu Minerals plans to mine the Poboya Forest Park,
located in the hills east of Palu, the provincial capital of Central
Sulawesi, Indonesia. The hamlet of Poboya lies within the Palu
municipality, only seven kilometers from the city center and three
kilometers from the airport. Poboya hamlet covers 14,035 hectares of a
valley surrounded by rugged hills. The area has some tree cover, including
endemic species of sandalwood, ebony and rattan. There is also extensive
scrub and grassland. The fauna includes cockatoo, pigeon, eagle and
monitor lizard species. Protected species such as deer, the endemic dwarf
buffalo and various primates are commonly seen along the rivers in Poboya.
Local people catch fish, eels and shrimps in these rivers. In addition to
its rich biodiversity, Poboya has an important hydrological role as a
water catchment area which supplies water to nearby communities and to the
city of Palu. In 1995, the Indonesian Forestry Minister issued a decree
that the Poboya area be protected as a Forest Park. The Forest Park status
means the area has a high conservation value where research, education and
tourism is permitted.
Mining Threatens Poboya Forest Park -Mine Process, Minerals Mined
and History of Mine
PT Citra Palu Mineral (PT CPM) owned 90% by Rio Tinto and 10% by
Arlia Karyamaska, is lobbying hard to open a gold mine in the Poboya
Forest Park in Central Sulawesi. The contract of work was signed in 1997
and covers a concession area of 561,050 hectares. On the concession map,
it is marked that some of the area includes the Poboya Forest Park. PT CPM
describes the area as barren with some scrub and forest, as if it is
completely unproductive and not used by local people. Rio Tinto carried
out explorations quietly for three years before making their plans known
to the public on June 21, 2000. The news only got out because Rio Tinto
had asked for a meeting with the Central Sulawesi provincial assembly and
requested that the boundaries of the Forest Park be changed to accommodate
the mine. Mining is not included in the list of activities permitted in
protected areas under Indonesian law. The local nature conservation office
refused to give PT CPM permission to do test boring within the Forest
Park, but the company went ahead. Exploratory boring started in 1998.
Official explorations have been recorded at three sites within the Park,
but a local NGO has found over twenty bore sites. PT CPM is asking the
Governor to move the borders of the Forest Park.
Local NGOs and the communities in Poboya Forest Park have from the
beginning rejected mining plans. Some local government officials are also
against the plans. Rio Tinto announced on March 23, 2001, that it was
selling its shares in PT CPM to Newcrest without any prior consultation
with the local communities. Once concessions are granted to mining
companies, these companies behave as if they own the land, as evident in
the selling of rights. The people of Palu and Poboya Forest Park have not
been properly consulted about the use of their land, minerals and water
resources. There has been considerable local opposition. If the mine does
go ahead, it will be the first mine close to an urban area and it will
also be the first mine allowed in a Forest Park which is the customary
land of the indigenous Tara and Ledo people (part of the Kaili ethnic
Many traditional settlements are still found within the Poboya Forest
Park, including the Vatutela and Poboya Bulili. These communities have
lived in this area for generations, long before it became a Forest Park.
Most of the indigenous people in and around the Forest Park practise a
traditional form of agroforestry based on their local knowledge. Their use
of natural resources and land is much the same as their ancestors'.
Coffee, coconuts, cocoa, candlenut, maize and rice are the main crops. For
example, under Bulili customary law, primary and secondary forest and
water sources are owned communally. There is a high degree of social
cohesion and land disputes within the community are unknown. The forest
and other land is used rotationally. Mature forest is used for collecting
non-timber forest products such as rattan (used for building their houses)
and was used for hunting, which is now forbidden in the Forest Park. Some
of this forest, by mutual agreement, can be cleared to grow crops, then
allowed to become secondary forest and eventually mature forest again.
Some areas are specifically allocated for cultivation or hunting. Each
type of forest land has its own local name and customary practices. The
Bulili's customary lands include rugged hills and gorges and the areas
which they farm may be considerable distances from their homes, but are
still part of their territory. The boundaries of their lands are only
marked by natural features such as rivers.
Other communities, like the Tara and Ledo, make a living on the
savanna-like grassland through a mixture of cultivation and livestock
rearing. Sheep and cows are grazed on the grasslands and the people grow a
range of crops even on the steepest slopes by piping water from springs
and streams. They also rely on collecting and trading non-timber forest
products. In these and many other ways, local communities have developed
their unique land use systems, customary practices and cultivation skills
in response to their natural environment. However, the local economy has
been affected because Poboya-Paneki has been declared a Protected Area.
The authorities are trying to restrict traditional land use practices in
the name of conservation. Ironically, at the very same time, the local
government has been opening up the area for mining. Such contradictory
decisions make the local people confused. Hence the banner at the entrance
to Vatutela which reads "We reject the Forest Park and Mining".
While some of the forest is used rotationally for cultivation and
agroforestry, other parts are considered sacred and cannot be touched. For
example, the Vatutela community recognises three kinds of sacred forest or
pangale katumpua. Many of the indigenous people of the Forest Park use
these areas of sacred forest for special ceremonies, such as to call for
rain during a prolonged dry season. Many sacred sites are along rivers
towards their sources. PT CPM has left four exploratory boreholes near two
ancient grave sites.
Reasons for Rejecting PT CPM Mine-Environmental, Human Rights and
Open-pit mine: PT CPM will most probably be an open-pit mine.
Open-pit mines are banned in protected forest areas in Indonesia (Forestry
Act No. 41/1999). Open-pit mines use an extensive area and disrupt the
local environment through the mine site, processing plant, waste rock and
infrastructure. Hills become holes. Dust is generated by the mining and
heavy trucks. Mine waste contaminates local water sources.
Displacement of local communities: Local people's lands are taken,
often generating conflict. The State does not recognise the customary
rights of indigenous communities such as Vatutela and Bulili. There is
usually little or no consultation with local communities about mining
plans. There is no such thing as community consent. The process of land
acquisition may involve forced evictions, intimidation and oppression,
including the use of the security forces like that seen at Rio Tinto's PT
KEM mine in East Kalimantan.
Poverty and cultural erosion are caused by local people being
deprived of their land. Their local knowledge and the indigenous economy
is destroyed. PT CPM have held a meeting with the Poboya people and
promised them compensation for their land, clean water supplies, housing
and employment opportunities. Rio Tinto made similar promises to the
Kelian people for the PT KEM mine but failed to deliver.
Negative socio-economic aspects: The mine will generate conflict
within the community by dividing it into pro and contra factions. Local
knowledge and skills will be lost but, when less manual labour is needed
and when the mine closes, there will be no employment for the indigenous
population and incomers who worked at the mine. The local economy which
had been generated by the mine will collapse. Meanwhile, the mining
company will have left the country with its profits, leaving the local
people with all the problems.
Water shortages: The Forest Park is a water catchment area for
Tondo and the Palu valley which is a dry area. Poboya is also considered
important in maintaining the ground water levels in the area which supply
people's wells in the city. Forest destruction that will come with mining
activities including associated waste ponds, roads and housing will
disrupt the hydrology. The mine itself will use a lot of water, thus
threatening water shortages for the people of Poboya and Palu.
Risk of water pollution from mine waste, whether tailings are
discharged into the river, collected in settling ponds or piped to the
sea. Acid rock drainage from the mine site will release heavy metals into
local water sources and groundwater.
Ecological destruction: Poboya has been declared a protected area
for its conservation value. The local flora and fauna include endemic and
endangered species. Forest destruction due to mining could increase soil
erosion and the silting up of local rivers, already a serious problem.
Much of the hillsides around the Palu valley are dry and bare. There is a
danger of flooding and landslips, if remaining forest is destroyed.
Geological instability: The island of Sulawesi lies at the
intersections of three tectonic plates. The whole island is subject to
earthquakes, tremors, tsunami and volcanic eruptions. A major fault runs
through Palu. Donggala, only one hour by road from Palu, was the epicentre
of a major earthquake in 1927, part of the coast is now the sea floor. Any
seismic activity could damage a mine's waste ponds, waste tips and
processing plants, leaving a huge potential risk of pollution for the
Local people's opposition: Local people have expressed their
opposition to the mine several times. Local NGOs have formed an alliance (Alliansi
Advokasi Tambang Sulteng) to support local people in fighting mining
plans. Vatutela villagers have wrote different government levels stating
their rejection of the mining plans in the area. Several protests have
been carried out by communitiy members demanding their rights. PT CPM
still continues to carry out activities in Poboya, despite the fact there
has been no public meeting to explain the mine plans and its impact on the
community and environment. No documents have been made public, including
the Environmental Impact Assessment on which licenses are supposed to be
based. Central Sulawesi governor Aminuddin Ponulele says he will never
give his approval to the mine because of the potential impact on the
population of Palu. The local nature conservation office is strongly
opposed to mining within the Forest Park and has brought up concerns that
the company has not consulted them about test boring done or the proposed
changes to the Forest Park boundary. The local environmental impact agency
office is also opposed to mining in the Forest Park and is concerned that
exploration has gone ahead before any EIA or before the local assembly has
approved the project.