Indonesian Environmentalist Highlights Inco Dangers in Sulawesi

Jamie Kneen

National Program Co-Lead

Indonesian environmentalist Arianto Sangaji is in Vancouver to launch a national campaign highlighting the role of Inco in his country.

Mr. Sangaji, the director of Yayasan Tanah Merdeka (Free Earth Foundation), is highlighting the threatened displacement of both indigenous people and migrants by a planned expansion of Inco's nickel mining operations on the island of Sulawesi.

Inco has recently completed a $1.5-billion expansion of its Sulawesi operations and, with development of the Voisey's Bay deposit now on hold, may accelerate further expansions in Indonesia. Inco is the largest Canadian investor in Indonesia. Its main Indonesian operation is the mining and processing facility in Soroako, South Sulawesi. Inco has already excavated 50,000 tonnes of ore in Bahomatefe, threatening to displace members of the indigenous Bungku people. Also at risk of eviction are transmigrants from Java and Bali. Inco also has contracts active for exploration in most of Indonesia's trouble spots, including West Papua, Ambon and Aceh.

Yayasan Tanah Merdeka is asking that the needs of local communities be considered, not simply Inco's bottom line. Inco Indonesia should adhere to the same standards on environmental questions and the rights of indigenous peoples that it follows in Canada. Finally, the federal government is being asked to reveal whether if has offered any financial incentives to Inco for its Indonesian operations. Inco received aid through Ottawa's Export Development Corp. when it started Indonesian operations and its latest expansion was first announced during Prime Minister Chrétien's Team Canada trade mission to Indonesia.

Mr. Sangaji will be accompanied by Mick Lowe, a Sudbury-based journalist and author of Premature Bonanza: Standoff at Voisey's Bay. Mr. Lowe has covered Inco for many years.

This tour is being sponsored by IDERA, Mining Watch Canada, EDC Working Group, Minewatch Asia Pacific, Coalition Against Environmental Racism, SF-PIRG, SFU Institute for the Humanities, Amnesty International, Canadian Action for Indonesia & East Timor, UBC Student Environment Centre, and Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace.