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digging for gold in the poboya protected forest rio tinto strikes again in indonesia


rio tinto, uk

“There is no community mining. The community feels prosperous with our lives now. If Rio Tinto goes ahead with mining in the area, our agriculture will be lost and the community will be faced with finding new sources of livelihood. We do not need gold.” Lakapa, head of Kambuno village.


Mining giant Rio Tinto is lobbying hard to open a gold mine in the Poboya-Tahura Forest Park in Central Sulawesi. Although Indonesian campaigners have long experience in battling the mining industry and Rio Tinto is no stranger to the country, this case poses special challenges as it would be the first mine to be dug close to an urban area.


The 8,100 hectare protected Forest Park is a mixture of trees, including endemic sandalwood, ebony and rattan species, as well as extensive scrub and grassland containing rich biodiversity. It is the customary land of the indigenous Tara and Ledo people. Local NGOs and communities immediately rejected Rio Tinto’s plans to mine in the area, and have been demonstrating and informing the media and the public about the dangers of the planned mine.


Rio Tinto is the largest mining company in the world, with operations in 40 countries. The company is renowned for its controversial projects on indigenous lands, including the Ranger and proposed Jabiluka uranium mines in Australia and its proposed titanium dioxide mine in Madagascar.


Yet Rio Tinto has felt the sting of public pressure in recent years. In 1997, for example, Friends of the Earth Czech Republic was instrumental in the cancellation of a Rio Tinto gold exploration and mining project in Mokrsko. And in 1998, Friends of the Earth Ecuador and local communities celebrated the departure of Rio Tinto from several areas around the country following staunch resistance to the company’s unpopular mines there.


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