Indonesia to revoke mining permit after Bima protests

Reuters 26 Jan 12;

* Sumbawa island operations hit by local protests
* Company Sumber Mineral Nusantara planned gold mining
* In joint venture with Arc Exploration
* Minister says permit revocation will take time

JAKARTA, Jan 26 (Reuters) - The Indonesian government said on Thursday it will revoke the exploration permit of mining company Sumber Mineral Nusantara whose operation on Sumbawa island has been hit by violent protests by residents in which two people have died.

Thousands of people rioted and burned a government office on Sumbawa on Thursday to demonstrate their rejection of the company's gold exploration plan, which they say will damage their land and livelihoods, according to police and local media.

The protests are the latest example of scattered demonstrations by some citizens in Southeast Asia's top economy against foreign-owned companies they fear will exploit the country's natural resources at their expense.

Residents including villagers and students in the town of Bima on Sumbawa have for nearly a year demanded that Bima's regent revoke the permit for a joint venture between PT Sumber Mineral Nusantara and Australian-listed Arc Exploration Limited .

Bima is approximately 1331 km (827 miles) east of Jakarta.

Footage from the Metro TV station showed thousands of people massing outside the office of the regent and setting fire to it. Clouds of smoke rose into the air as the police fired warning shots.

"The preliminary information from Bima is that people were acting anarchist by burning the regent's office ... We don't know if there are any casualties," said national police spokesman Boy Rafli Amar. Another spokesman said police had made no arrests and the situation remained unstable.

Energy Minister Jero Wacik said the exploration permit would be revoked but the process would take some time.

Two people were killed and eight wounded in clashes with police on Dec 24 as protesters occupied Sape port.

The Arc Exploration Ltd announced on Jan. 3 that its exploration license has been temporarily suspended for one year since Dec. 23. (Reporting by Olivia Rondonuwu, Reza Thaher and Heru Asprihanto; Editing by Matthew Bigg)

Bima district chief revokes PT SMN's exploration permit
Antara 27 Jan 12;

Jakarta (ANTARA News) - Energy and Mineral Resources Minister Jero E Wacik said the Bima district chief in West Nusa Tenggara has revoked the exploration permit of mining company PT Sumber Mineral Nusantara (PT SMN).

"Just now I heard the Bima district head has revoked it (the exploration permit of PT SMN)," he said after making an expose in connection with his first 100 days in office here on Thursday.

People in Bima had rejected PT SMN`s exploration activities in the region and in a demonstration on Thursday they burned the office of the district head.

The director general of minerals and coal at the ministry of energy and mineral resources, Thamrin Sihite, said he contacted the Bima district head immediately after the burning of his office.

At the time the district head insisted that he would not revoke the permit. Later "I told him that many people had already fallen victim and as a public official he would then have to face the consequences. Finally, hesitantly he said he would do it," he said.

He said however that PT SMN could resume explorations if the local people agreed. "If the local people give their support it is possible for the company to resume its operations," he said.

Jero Wacik said in the future the local government had to listen to the people`s aspirations before issuing a permit.

"Local leaders must be careful before issuing mining permits. Familiarization must first be done intensively among the people," he said.

The central government, Jero said, would increase its supervisory role.

PT SMN earlier said it hoped it could still continue its exploration activities as it has carried them out according to the law.

The activities are aimed at confirming whether or not there are indications of gold or other mineral reserves potential for economic exploitation there.

PT SMN has already postponed survey activities carried out by 10 geological experts and the activities of administrative staff members and around 100 local workers from villages in the exploration areas. (*)

Editor: B Kunto Wibisono