Jakarta, May 26, 2023-Residents of Sorowako, East Luwu, South Sulawesi reported the nickel mining company PT Vale Indonesia to the Human Rights National Commission (Komisi Nasional Hak Asasi Manusia) for alleged human rights violation, intimidation, and criminalization. The residents of Sorowako are accompanied by the Makassar Legal Aid Institute (Lembaga Bantuan Hukum Makassar), the Indonesian Legal Aid Institute (Yayasan Lembaga Bantuan Hukum Indonesia), Safety, and Trend Asia. 

In March 2023, PT Vale Indonesia reported the residents of Sorowako to the East Luwu police for illegal land use in the Old Camp area. Even though, the site had previously been set as compensation to replace the community land taken by PT Vale Indonesia for nickel mining activities on Mount Songko in the 1970s. PT Vale Indonesia subpoenaed 39 residents as of March 2023, and 21 people were summoned by the East Luwu police for clarification.

During PT Vale Indonesia’s operation in Sorowako, residents have been evicted from their land multiple times. Nonetheless, the compensation process has never been completed. In 2020, a representative from PT Vale Indonesia, the chairman of the local civil organization society Kerukunan Wawainia Asli Sorowako (KWAS), and residents’ legal representative for land compensation made a joint agreement about the settlement of the Old Camp Area and Topondau as compensation from the land grab at Songko.

Based on that agreement, a plot map was created, detailing 10×15 meters of each plot complete with numbers and blocks. Moreover, PT Vale Indonesia has already demolished the company houses for employees at the Old Camp location, and a team comprised of representatives of PT Vale Indonesia, the chairman of KWAS, and residents’ legal representatives have gathered data on residents eligible to receive plots based on the criteria agreed upon in the deliberations.

In 2021, a list of plot compensation recipients was agreed upon. On October 18, 2021, the plot number was revoked, and permission to install stakes was asked through PT Vale Indonesia’s Director of External Relations Endra Kusuma. Nevertheless, on March 7, 2023, PT Vale Indonesia put up a sign prohibiting residents from accessing and doing activities. PT Vale Indonesia then directs security forces: police, military, Mobile Brigade Corps (Korps Brimob), and PT Vale Indonesia’s security guard, around the area. This situation escalated when PT Vale Indonesia reported Sorowako residents for illegal land use. 

“PT Vale Indonesia acted like the authority. Almost all of the land is controlled by them, so there are residents who don’t even have land to live in,” said Sorowako resident representative A. Baso.

PT Vale Indonesia, previously called PT INCO (International Nickel Indonesia), is one of the largest mining companies and nickel producers in Indonesia. Historically PT Vale Indonesia started exploration in the eastern Sulawesi region around the 1920s. One might say PT Vale Indonesia (PT INCO) was the first nickel mine in Indonesia that officially started commercial production in 1978. 

PT Vale Indonesia is known to have several nickel mines in three provinces: Central Sulawesi, Southeast Sulawesi, and South Sulawesi, with a total concession area of ​​118,017 Ha and an average annual production volume of 75,000 metric tons. PT Vale Indonesia is developing numerous new nickel mining blocks and production facilities in Pomalaa, Bahodopi, and Sorowako.

In a meeting between residents of Sorowako representatives with the Human Rights National Commission (Komnas HAM) on Friday (26/5), Komnas HAM Chairman of The Complaints Commisions Hari Kurniawan stated a quick response is required since there are efforts to criminalize the residents of Sorowako.

“The complaints have been received, and we will conduct an analysis. Due to the criminalization efforts experienced by residents, we will issue protection letters for residents who are summoned by the police. And we also hope that PT Vale Indonesia will not intimidate using the police force or other forms of intimidation. We will immediately issue a protection letter within 3×24 hours after the identity of the resident who will receive protection is completed,” said Hari.

In response to Komnas HAM’s statement, A. Baso said: “Following that, I hope PT Vale Indonesia will immediately fulfill the agreements that have been made. Apart from that, Komnas HAM can defend what is right, not what is wrong.”

Thus, the residents of Sorowako and the community assistants demand:

  1. PT Vale Indonesia Tbk is to carry out its obligations agreed upon on December 30, 2020, namely to clean up the Old Camp area and complete the waiver of rights to property document.
  2. Urge PT Vale Indonesia Tbk to hand over the Old Camp area as soon as possible to the people who were victims of PT. INCO (PT. Vale Indonesia Tbk.) on Mount Songko.
  3. Urge PT Vale Indonesia Tbk to withdraw its report at the East Luwu Police.
  4. The East Luwu Police is to be cautious in handling the alleged criminal act of illegal land use reported by PT Vale Indonesia Tbk.
  5. Urge the Regent of East Luwu Regency to ensure that PT Vale Indonesia Tbk immediately fulfills the residents’ rights to the Old Camp land as replacement land for residents on Mount Songko.