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Story Publication logo September 9, 2021

The Golden Dilemma of Bukit Mesel (bahasa Indonesia)


man riding a bike on a dirt road through the forest

Reclaiming the former PT Newmont Minahasa Raya (NMR) gold mining area in Southeast Minahasa, North...


Gold from mining in Bukit Mesel, Manado. Image by Finneke Wolajan. Indonesia, 2021.

This story excerpt was translated from bahasa Indonesia. To read the original story in full, visit the Forest Digest website or the Rainforest Journalism Fund website. Our website is available in English, Spanish, bahasa Indonesia, French, and Portuguese.

Rows of various types of trees grow regularly in Bukit Mesel Ratatotok, Southeast Minahasa, North Sulawesi. There are teak, cinnamon, sengon, mahogany, red jabon, linggua, and water ketapan trees. Standing 3-4 meters apart, the trees towered 20-30 meters. Judging from the planting monument, they are already 25 years old.

Mesel Hill area is approximately 221 hectares. Southeast Minahasa people call it Megawati Soekarnoputri Botanical Gardens, the name of the fifth Indonesian President to become General Chair of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle—the same party as Southeast Minahasa Regent James Sumendap. The trees were planted by PT Newmont Minahasa Raya as part of the gold mine reclamation.

The reclamation began in 1996, eight years before the US company ceased operations. For 20 years, PT Newmont dug a hill and left a hole that is now a lake measuring 700 x 500 meters deep as deep as 135 meters. Until it stopped operating in 2004—completely closed in 2016—PT Newmont was estimated to transport gold weighing 1.9 million troy ounces or 65.1 tons. If the price of 1 gram of gold is Rp. 1 million, Newmont will earn at least Rp. 65 trillion.

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