04 April 2023
A number of activists in North Maluku are refuting Jaringan Advokasi Tambang (JATAM)'s accusations regarding the negative impact caused by the nickel giant Harita Group on Obi Island.
Various NGOs and student organizations are supporting the activists in their efforts. These include PB-FORMMALUT JABODETABEK, Forum Mahasiswa Lingkar Tambang Maluku Utara, LIRA Maluku Utara, DPD Ikatan Mahasiswa Muhammadiyah Malut, Himpunan Mahasiswa OBI (HIMO) Jabodetabek, Himpunan Mahasiswa Islam (HMI) Branch Bacan, Serikat Kerakyatan Indonesia (LSM SAKTI), Gerakan Mahasiswa Nasional Indonesia (GMNI), and Gerakan Pemuda Marhaenisme (GPM).
Together, they are all in unison in refuting JATAM's accusations against Harita Group. Some of the activists and organizations even suspect that JATAM has certain interests at stake.
Providing more context and background information could include explaining what specific negative impact JATAM is accusing Harita Group of causing on Obi Island, and why these activists and organizations are speaking out against JATAM's accusations.
JATAM's accusations against the nickel downstream company began with a Zoom discussion on March 24th, where the topic was "Environmental and Human Rights Abuses Behind Harita Group's Business Octopus". During the discussion, JATAM raised concerns about the negative impact that Harita Group's business practices have had on the environment and local communities. These concerns led to accusations against the company, which were later refuted by a group of activists and various NGOs in North Maluku.
Next, on March 30, 2023, JATAM officially wrote to the Financial Services Authority (OJK) and the Indonesia Stock Exchange (BEI) requesting their intervention in the midst of the company's plan to conduct an initial public offering (IPO) of PT Trimega Bagun Persada (TBP).
JATAM believes that the five subsidiaries of Harita Group operating on Obi Island have caused extensive environmental damage and suffering to the residents of Kawasi, Obi Island, South Hamahera, North Maluku.
Therefore, JATAM urges that if the IPO plan of PT Trimega Bagun Persada is to proceed, the company must issue a written statement openly, in order to be held accountable for their environmental crimes and to ensure that the ecological infrastructure of Obi Island is not damaged.
In a statement released to Cakrawala.co, Anie Rahmi, the Corporate Affairs Manager of Harita Nickel, firmly stated that what was conveyed by Jaringan Advokasi Tambang was highly misleading and had created a negative opinion towards their company.
"It is not true that all the accusations made against us, such as land grabbing, environmental pollution, repressive actions, and intimidation towards the community. Our activities have permits and technical approvals from the government and even reported regularly, it is impossible for us to do that," said Anie.
The Chairman of the Bacan Branch of the Islamic Student Association (HMI), Tahirun Mubin, considered JATAM's accusations against Harita as a one-sided judgment process. Some of the allegations, such as mining waste disposal into the sea resulting in water pollution, do not reflect the reality on the ground.
"So far, we see that the Harita Group is still working according to the standards provided by the government. Regarding the allegation of mining waste disposal into the sea, it is a misconception. Until now, the fish supply for the company's needs is sourced from local fishermen. That means fish in Obi Island waters are still abundant," Tahirun said.
The Chairman of PB-FORMMALUT JABODETABEK, M Reza A. Syadik, considered the environmental pollution and damage issues raised by JATAM as only baseless claims and always become a highlighted issue.
As a native of South Halmahera resident, Reza said that he always focuses on monitoring the issues related to the problematic mining sector that affects the community on Obi Island. Therefore, the allegations made by JATAM regarding what is alleged to be happening on Obi Island raise many questions.
"The question is whether JATAM has conducted direct advocacy by going to Obi Island and whether they are aware of the economic empowerment program for the people of Obi Island initiated by Harita," he said.
Meanwhile, the Advocacy Head of the North Maluku Student Mining Circle Forum in Jakarta, Halid Hamjah, stated that since 2010, the Harita Group has contributed to the development of the South Halmahera Regency and to the national economy.
So far, Harita has been consistent in handling and preventing environmental damage on Obi Island, which resulted in Harita receiving the PRATAMA award for its achievements in preserving the environment in mineral and coal mining operations for mineral and coal commodity business entities holding IUP (Mining Business License) from the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources of Indonesia in 2021.
"The second award is the Blue PROPER (Environmental Performance Rating Program) from the Minister of Environment and Forestry of Indonesia in Ministerial Decree Number SK1299/MENLHK/SETJEN/KUM.1/12/2022 regarding the results of the company's environmental management performance rankings for 2021-2022," Halid said.
Agreeing with Halid, Said A Alkatiri, the supervisor of LIRA North Maluku NGO, acknowledged that since Harita has operated on Obi Island, it has helped the people of South Halmahera, particularly those in the mining area, and even contributed to national and regional development in North Maluku.
"There have been many benefits felt by the local community, especially in terms of community economic empowerment around the mine. As for environmental issues, they have not been proven because the fishermen around the mine earn income from selling their catches to Harita," said Said. Also read: Harita and Unkhair Plant 39,000 Mangroves in South Halmahera.
He urged those who frequently comment without basis and without proven research results not to develop opinions that have negative impacts on the people of Obi Island.
The North Maluku Muhammadiyah Student Association and the OBI Student Association (HIMO) in Jabodetabek believe that JATAM's accusations must be accountable to the public.
The Chairman of the North Maluku Muhammadiyah Student Association, Usman Mansur, said that JATAM's statement has made the people of Obi disappointed because the accusation that the company dumps waste into the sea, causing contaminated fish, is not true.
"It's just an issue, and we've found many NGOs based in Jakarta that comment without appropriate data," he said.
Furthermore, the Chairman of the OBI Student Association (HIMO) in Jabodetabek, Wahyu Kahusa, admitted that JATAM always creates a fuss about environmental pollution issues, one of which is related to contaminated fish in Obi's waters due to chemicals and hazardous substances.
"If there is waste in the sea, then why does Harita organize fishing competitions that are participated in by many people?" he concluded.
In addition, the Indonesian National Student Movement (GMNI) Halsel Malut branch believes that there are significant interests behind the pros and cons of Harita Group's performance and policies, which are considered to harm the community and cause environmental damage on Obi Island.
The Chairman of the GMNI Halmahera Selatan branch, Sumitro H. Komdan, emphasized that so far, the GMNI Halsel branch has monitored Harita Group's activities, including labor absorption, CSR, reforestation, and other needs of the mining community, and that Harita has fulfilled its rights and obligations.
"So far, GMNI Halsel sees that Harita Group has fulfilled its rights and obligations, which may differ somewhat from other companies in the North Maluku region," he said.
Regarding the issue related to the Initial Public Offering (IPO) process of one of Harita Nickel's business entities, Sumitro believes that there may be certain interests involved.
"If we criticize the issue of environmental damage, it is still reasonable, but if it involves the privatization of the company, it is somewhat inaccurate," said Sumitro.
The Chairman of the North Maluku region's Indonesian People's Union (LSM SAKTI), Salmin A. Gafar, stated that the presence of Harita Group has provided many benefits to the mining community.
"Based on the results of the fishermen, they catch many fish that are purchased by the company," said Salmin. Furthermore, Salmin added that the company's operations comply with regulations and meet ESG standards.
Salmin considered JATAM's claims to be mere hallucinations and attempts to create public opinion. "It is not appropriate to deliver news in the form of propaganda. Instead, it should be addressed more professionally, especially when dealing with issues related to Harita," he said.
Meanwhile, Harmain Rusli, the Chairman of the South Halmahera Marhaenism Youth Movement (GPM), stated in a press release that Harita Group's nickel mining operations in Obi have made significant contributions to the region. He also emphasized that Harita has provided various forms of direct assistance to the people in South Halmahera.
"If there are parties who draw negative conclusions about Harita Group, I suspect that those are just baseless opinions intentionally created and designed by certain individuals," said Harmain Rusli.