Youths of Sangihe Island, North Sulawesi, Held a Rally Protesting the Controversial Gold Mine

The existence of a gold mine in Sangihe Island has drawn protests from the youths as it may threaten the livelihood of the residents and nature.

Hundreds of youths in the Sangihe Islands Regency, North Sulawesi, consisting of Nusa Utara Polytechnic students and youth groups gathered in the Student Action Unit and Youth Save Sangihe (KAMPASS) held a peaceful protest against PT Tambang Mas Sangihe (TMS) which operates a gold mind in the area, Thursday (28/10/2021).

"We, youths and women, residents of Sangihe Regency, reject PT TMS from operating in the Sangihe Islands Regency," said a participant, Alfred Pontolondo, in front of  Sangihe Regent's home office, North Sulawesi, Thursday (28/10/2021), as quoted from Antara News.

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The view of Tahuna, the center of Sangihe Islands Regency.
The view of Tahuna, the center of Sangihe Islands Regency. (Photo: Wikimedia)

In a statement submitted to the Regional Secretary, Melanchton Wolff, the participants of the protest stated that the people of Sangihe Regency had been comfortable with managing their own natural resources on the sea and land. 

The residents of Sangihe feel disturbed by the presence of a gold mining permit owned by PT TMS. The permit area is 42,000 hectares or more than half of Sangihe Island which will be managed for 33 years.

Sangihe Island is home to Sahendarumang protected forest which acts as a source of fresh water that supports the community. It is a habitat for endemic animals that are protected and are now starting to be threatened.

For example, Cerulean flycatcher or Seriwang Sangihe (Eutrichomyias rowleyi) is one of the critically endangered bird endemic to the Sangihe Island whose existence may be threatened by the mining operation. 

"We will continue to fight so that the mining permit issued by the Director General of Mineral and Coal ESDM Number 163.K/MB.04/DJB/2021 granted to PT TMS is immediately revoked or canceled," said Pontolondo to Antara News.

The protest ended peacefully and aspirations from the protesters were accepted by the Regional Secretary Melanchton Wolff together with the regional leadership coordination forum. The participants of the action were also received by members of Sangihe Regional People's Representative Council (DPRD).

The protest coincided with Indonesia's 93rd Youth Pledge Day commemoration. 

Previously, the death of the Deputy Regent of the Sangihe Islands, Helmud Hontong, last June (9/6/2021) became a public concern, it was suspected that there were irregularities, considering that the deceased was known as a figure who firmly rejected gold mining in his area.

Before his death, Helmud  was known to have sent a letter of rejection of the Mining Business Permit of PT Tambang Mas Sangihe (TMS) to the Minister of Energy and Mineral Resources (ESDM).

However, North Sulawesi Regional Police had stopped the investigation on the death of Deputy Regent of Sangihe Islands. The police stated that based on the results of the autopsy, his death  is due to complications of chronic disease.