Australian mining company Arc Exploration (
) temporarily suspended the operation of its gold project at Bima
in the Indonesia island of Sumbawa after violence broke out on
the site on Christmas Eve.
Indonesian police allegedly fired directly at protesters who
were accused of using machetes and lobbing Molotov cocktails that
burned houses and government and commercial establishments.
Arc, in a filing on Wednesday with the ASX, said it stopped
exploration activities at Buma until the situation was resolved.
Demonstrators against the venture blocked the port of Sape last
week. The protesters are against mining and sought to revoke
Arc's exploration licence issued by the Indonesian
Arc owns 95 per cent of the joint venture while the remaining
5 per cent is held by its Indonesian partner which is the actual
holder of the licence that covers 250 square kilometers. Besides
the Bima gold project, Arc has two other mining prospects in
Indonesia, one in east Java and the other with Anglo American, in
"No gold mine is being constructed.... As a consequence of the
positive response received from the local communities and
authorities, limited field work was recently resumed," Arc said
in a statement. The Sydney-based firm stressed it was in a
non-intrusive early stage of exploration only and it had fully
complied with all legal, regulatory and licence requirements.
After the Indonesian police moved to reopen the port, reports
said three protesters died from the violent clashes. Arc said
there were only two deaths. The protests were spearheaded by the
Anti-Mining People's Front which is linked to Walhi, the
Indonesian arm of Friends of the Earth.
Derec Davies, spokesman for Friends of the Earth,
said the civil unrest against Arc's gold project has spread
to three other communities.
"Generally, gold mining is a bad thing.... Why (hasn't) the
Foreign Minister, Kevin Rudd, or the Arc board called for a halt
to the violence?" he told The Australian.
The National Human Rights Commission of Indonesia called the
shooting of protesters a serious violation of human rights and is
conducting its investigation of the clashes.