JAKARTA (Bloomberg): Environment Ministry has sent a 15-member team to check if Freeport-McMoran Copper & Gold Inc. improperly disposed waste from its mining operations in Papua province, Environment Minister Rachmat Witoelar said.
"There's a problem with its tailings. They were not properly processed," Rachmat said in a phone interview yesterday.
Preliminary data showed that Freeport may have exceeded the minimum residue limit in the Grasberg mine, the world's biggest gold mine in Papua province, he said.
An environment ministry report to parliament dated Jan. 30 showed total suspended solid in Aghawagon river stood at 451.7 milligrams per liter, more than the government-set limit of 50 milligrams per liter. The team was sent on Feb. 10.
"We have sent a full team, but I will need further findings to say what's the next step," Rachmat said.
Freeport's spokesman Siddharta Moersjid said the company would cooperate with the Environment Ministry to address any concerns they may have.
"We do not use cyanide or mercury in our process," Moersjid said in an e-mail response. "Our mine tailings are simply finely ground natural rock and are non-toxic."
The tests are expected to be completed in about three weeks, Rasio Ridho Sani, assistant deputy minister for management of hazardous material for mining, energy oil and gas, said in an interview.
Freeport runs the Grasberg mine, which is also the world's second-biggest copper mine, under a 30-year contract with the Indonesian government. The agreement, which started in 1992, can be extended for up to another 20 years.
The environment ministry has charged Newmont Mining Corp., the world's biggest gold miner, of polluting a bay near the company'smine in North Sulawesi province. The head of Newmont's local business, Richard Ness, 56, faces as many as 10 years in prison if convicted. The company and Ness deny the allegations, saying waste disposal from the mine was within legal limits.
Indonesia also filed a US$117 million civil suit against the Denver-based Newmont, claiming waste from the miner polluted the sea. In November, an Indonesian court dismissed the suit, saying it doesn't have the jurisdiction to decide on the case.