Save Sangihe Island (SSI) is ready to take TMS back to court if the government grants another mining operation on the island.
Residents of Sangihe Island, North Sulawesi, can now breathe. On September 8, 2023, the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources (ESDM) revoked the mining permit (IUP/OP) related to gold mining from PT Tambang Mas Sangihe (TMS) in Bowone Village, Central South Tabukan Sub-district, Sangihe Islands District.
However, in an online press conference on Friday (15/9), the anti-mining civil society coalition in Sangihe Island – Save Sangihe Island (SSI) — was wary of the news that an additional production operation license would be issued to TMS. They emphasized that they would fight if this happened.
“We are happy and grateful to God because the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources has revoked the production license of PT Tambang Mas Sangihe. It was a surprise,” said Jull Takaliuang, Director of Suara Nurani Minaesa Foundation (YSNM) and SSI activist.
Suara Nurani Minaesa Foundation is a local NGO that focuses on human rights, democracy, and the environment. It is part of a national anti-corruption network under the coordination of the Indonesia Corruption Watch.
SSI, said Takaliuang, considered the decision a surprise because it was only issued nine months after the Supreme Court rejected ESDM’s and TMS’s appeal in January 2023. Takaliuang said the license revocation should have been implemented within three months after the Supreme Court inkracht decision.
Takaliuang said that the coalition welcomed the energy ministry’s decision but they were surprised to hear the statement from the ministry’s official while announcing the revocation.
CNN Indonesia reported that the Director of Mineral Business Development of the energy ministry Yose Rizal said that the TMS contract of work (KK), which was agreed upon by the government in 1997, was still valid and the subsidiary of Baru Gold “can reapply for a phase increase to production operation activities by completing the requirements according to the provisions.”
Yose also added that TMS had no objections to the ministry’s decision.
“This insults common sense. When one day after the license was revoked a director of ESDM immediately revealed clearly to the public through the media that (TMS) could apply for another license. There is a sentence where he also stated that TMS had no objections to this decision,” said Takaliuang.
“Wow, he seems to have become TMS’s PR. It must be questioned who Yose Rizal is.”
Takaliuang urged the government to not grant mining licenses on Sangihe Island. He said that based on Law No. 1/2014 on the Management of Coastal Areas and Small Islands, Sangihe, which covers less than 2,000 square kilometers – 736.98 square kilometers to be exact – is a small island whose environment must be protected.
He also pointed out that Sangihe is not an uninhabited island and its people live comfortably and happily.
‘Work contract are no longer recognized’
Meanwhile, the head of the Legal Division of the Mining Advocacy Network (Jatam) Muhammad Jamil emphasized that TMS’ work contract (KK) is no longer valid since Law No. 4/2009 concerning Minerals and Coal, which was further strengthened by Law No. 3/2020 concerning Minerba.
According to the law, Jamil explained, all work contracts should be converted into Special Mining Business Licenses (IUPK) with a validity period of 20 years which can be extended twice, 10 years each. Meanwhile, the contract TMS was awarded in 1997 is valid until 2054.
“Work contracts (KK) are no longer recognized, so we are surprised if there are still licenses with this status,” said Jamil.
Rico Pandeirot, TMS’ legal counsel, explained to Bisnis.com that the company is reapplying for its operating license. Rico also confirmed that TMS still holds a government contract.
In response to this, the attorney of SSI and Jatam, Harimuddin said that they would take TMS to court again if this happened.
“The validity period of the environmental permit refers to the validity period of the IUP OP, which has been canceled by the Supreme Court. Therefore, the environmental permit is null and void and cannot be used to apply for another operating license,” said Harimuddin. “We will definitely file another lawsuit.”
On June 23, 2022, 37 Sangihe residents filed a lawsuit against the Minister of Energy and Mineral Resources regarding the IUP OP granted to TMS. This lawsuit was filed at the Jakarta Administrative Court. The residents believed that the gold mining business would destroy their living space on the small island. Their lawsuit was rejected.
Sangihe filed an appeal on August 29, 2022, to the Jakarta High Administrative Court. This overturned the Jakarta Administrative Court’s decision and granted all residents’ claims. The judge also issued an interlocutory decision to postpone the implementation of TMS’ current IUP OP on Sangihe Island until the case verdict is legally binding.
The Minister of Energy and Mineral Resources and TMS retaliated by filing an appeal with the Supreme Court. Their appeal was rejected and the Jakarta High Administrative Court’s decision stands.