Placer Dome’s Exploration in Indonesian Protected Area Opposed

Vancouver-based Placer Dome is facing vehement opposition from indigenous Dayak communities, as well as from provincial government officials and an international consortium of Non-Governmental Organizations. Placer has started an exploration program in Indonesia’s oldest protected forest. The Meratus Mountain protected forest in South Kalimantan (formerly known as Borneo) has enjoyed protected status since 1928. Placer Dome is one of a consortium of foreign mining companies actively lobbying the Indonesian Government to relax its 1999 Forestry Act that prohibits open pit mining in protected forest areas. (see press release of July 28, 2003 and “Save Indonesia’s Protected Forests” backgrounder).

Not only is Placer’s incursion into this protected forest decried by environmentalists, but Placer also faces serious opposition from the traditional dwellers of this region, the Dayak Meratus and the Dayak Samihim peoples. The indigenous Dayak have been consistent and vocal in their opposition. in a recent letter to the President of Indonesia the Dayak say they are “stating our opposition and requesting a halt to exploration activities being carried out by [Placer Dome].” The Dayak make it clear that the Meratus Mountains "comprise our water source, our sacred site, [and] our community source of livelihood…” (see Dayak statement of June 25, 2003, and "Spare our homeland" Asia Pacific Post, August 21, 2003).

Placer Dome’s Keith Ferguson defended Placer’s operation at this year’s AGM by stating that the forest has already suffered from past small-scale mining and forestry and, furthermore, that Placer Dome is dismantling its drilling equipment so it can be move between trees. Placer’s position contradicts the company’s lofty sustainability principles and draws into question Placer’s recent agreement, as a member of the International Council on Metals and Minerals not to mine in World Heritage protected areas (see ICMM press release).