National Geographic : 2009 Jan
• Not all of the locals, however, feel grateful. Outside the ve subsidized villages, the mine s presence has brought little more than envy (as those who don t have mining jobs resent those who do) and frustration (as the in ux of mining salaries drives up the cost of living). One ash of anger came in 2006, when vandals burned down a Newmont exploratory camp in eastern Sumbawa, halting the company s testing for a new mine site. Now the local and provincial governments, whose power has expanded since the dictator Suharto fell in 1998, are starting to assert them- selves. Working with Indonesian business inter- ests, they are moving to capture a share of the mine and a say in how its revenues are distrib- uted. "We had no control over our destiny when these contracts were signed under Suharto," says local People s Council representative Manim- bang Kahariyai. "We have to protect our future. What will be le of our environment when the mine is nished?" Sitting in her new house in the village of Jereweh, Nur Piah is focused more on the pres- ent than the future. "So many people depend on me," she says. Her husband makes some money as a timber trader, but Nur Piah s salary---about $650 a month---paid for their two-story con- crete home. As if in tribute, she has hung on one wall a large painting of the yellow Caterpillar 793. Nur Piah s job is not without its hardships. Maneuvering the enormous truck over a 12- hour shi is especially stressful, she says, when the pit s graded roads are slicked by torrential rains. But now, a er a long day, she smiles con- tentedly as her child, age six, falls asleep on her lap. e girl s middle name? Higrid, the Indo- nesian approximation of "high-grade," the best ore in the mine. THE GOLD ORNAMENTS come out of the velvet boxes one by one, family heirlooms that Nagavi, a 23-year-old Indian bride, always knew she would wear on her wedding day. The eldest daughter of a coffee plantation owner in the southern Indian state of Karnataka, Nagavi grew up marveling at the weddings that mark the merger of two wealthy Indian families. But not until the morning of her own arranged wed- ding to the only son of another co ee plantation family does she understand just how achingly beautiful the golden tradition can be. Newmont s environmental department---now 87 strong---stresses its efforts to reclaim the heaps of discarded rock, covering them with ten feet of soil and letting the jungle take root. Nothing can restore the pristine rain forest, of course, and Newmont faces a further prob- lem: After ten years of operations, it is run- ning out of room to dump the waste from Batu Hijau. ree years ago, the company applied to renew a permit to clear another 79 acres of rain forest. So far, Jakarta has not granted it, as environmentalists point to the near disap- pearance of the yellow-crested cockatoo on Sumbawa. With limited space, Batu Hijau s haul trucks are now getting caught in tra c, hurting the mine s e ciency. If more rain forest is not granted soon, Newmont o cials have warned, they will be compelled to lay o several hun- dred Indonesian workers. The imbroglio lays bare a surprising rift between Newmont and its once friendly Indo- nesian hosts. Batu Hijau was supposed to be a model mine, and Newmont likes to tout its bene ts: the $391 million in local royalties and taxes it paid in 2007, the more than 8,000 jobs it has created for Indonesians, the reported $600 million spent to minimize environmen- tal damage. en there s the more than $3 mil- lion Newmont spends each year on community development. It may be a pittance compared with the company s annual revenues, but it has provided the ve villages closest to the mine with electricity, health clinics, irrigation dams, and agriculture projects. In all of history, only 161,000 tons of gold have been mined, barely enough to fill two Olympic pools. More than half has been extracted in the past 50 years.