Indigenous Dayak communities in East Kalimantan, Indonesia are displaced by the mining company Kelian Equatorial Mining (PT KEM) which had gained concessions for gold mining there. The company is jointly owned and operated by Rio Tinto with 90% ownership and the Indonesian company PT Harita Jayaraya Inc. which owns 10%.

Besides the evictions of hundreds of local inhabitants and the destruction of homes, the company also forbids them to undertake gold mining, agroforestry or cultivation of fields near the mine. None of the company’s actions are adequately compensated for. This prompts demonstrations but opposition to the mine is met with militarisation and violence.

In its 13 years of operation, the mine reportedly dumps 100 million metric tons of waste rock into the environment, much of it contaminated. Rio Tinto acknowledges that there was “acid mine drainage” from the mine site while the company’s 1996 environmental report confirms that almost 1,100 kilogrammes of cyanide had been discharged from the mine into the Kelian River. The pollution poses health risks as local residents lose their source of clean water and begin to suffer from skin rashes and eye infections. Additionally, it results in fish virtually disappearing from the river, depriving residents of an important source of food. The mine closes in 2005.


The Kelian mine’s entire history of displacement, dispossession and water pollution through waste dumping is noticeably absent from Rio Tinto’s own timeline.


Rio Tinto: A Shameful History

Nyompe, Pius Erick. 2003. Indonesia Case Study: The Closure of the Kelian Gold Mine and the Role of the Business Partnership for Development/World Bank.