The New York Times editorial page today waded into the mucky controversy over pollution of Indonesia’s Buyat Bay by the Colorado-based Newmont Mining Corp., the world’s biggest plunderer — oops, I mean producer — of gold. The Times‘ Jane Perlez has covered this saga — which has involved, among other exciting bits, jail time for mining execs, high-stakes lawsuits, dueling scientific reports, and birth deformities — more comprehensively than any other reporters, to my knowledge (see here and here). The Times editorial, in part:
Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, a former general, became Indonesia’s first directly elected president last month partly on the promise of a cleaner, more open government, free of entanglements with special interests. He now has an opportunity to begin redeeming that pledge. Before him and his ministers lies a hotly disputed government report that says the sediment in Buyat Bay, the equatorial bay where an American corporation, Newmont Mining, has been depositing mine waste for several years, is polluted with high levels of arsenic and mercury.
The report further asserts that the pollutants have worked their way up the food chain and that fish in the bay are now laced with enough arsenic to make them unfit for consumption. The report … is the most comprehensive of several studies on Buyat Bay and is sure to figure in a $543 million lawsuit that local villagers have filed against the company. The villagers have complained of rashes, lumps, breathing difficulties and dizziness. …
Mr. Yudhoyono must swiftly release the full report. … The president’s next obligation, assuming that he finds no unexpected and disabling flaws in the study, is to stick by it and to seek appropriate remedies from the company.