Toxic mud spill in Indonesia: Gas company PT Lapindo Brantas does not accept responsibility but is paying for clean-up

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16 October 2006

Santos may avoid toxic mud prosecution [Indonesia]

Author: AAP [Australian Associated Press]

Australian company Santos looks likely to avoid any criminal prosecution over a massive environmental disaster linked to its part-owned exploratory gas well in Indonesia's east Java...A seemingly unstoppable "mud volcano" erupted 200 metres from Santos' part-owned Banjar Panji exploration well during deep drilling almost five months ago....the thick sulphuric sludge has flooded eight villages...forcing the permanent relocation of 12,000 local residents...Authorities are investigating whether to charge several workers and companies directly involved in drilling at the site, including Operator Lapindo Brantas [part of Energi Mega Persada] which ordered the drilling...Lapindo has a 50 [%] stake in the exploratory well, while PT Medco [part of MedcoEnergi] holds 32 [%], and Australian miner Santos owns 18 [%]...[the head of East Java provincial police's criminal unit Amhar Azeth] said it was unlikely police would pursue a criminal case against Santos...Environmental campaigner Walhi is considering launching a separate civil action against Lapindo...

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5 October 2006

Muddy waters [Indonesia]

Author: Economist

For the past four months, a steady flow of hot and noxious mud has erupted from the earth, swamping villages, factories and rice paddies [in] Indonesia...and 13,000 people have been evacuated from the area...12 more villages are in pressing danger of being swamped...[The mud-flow]...erupted 150 metres from where a gas company called PT Lapindo Brantas [part of Energi Mega Persada] was drilling a 3km exploratory well. The company...has not accepted that it was responsible for the eruption...[b]ut some experts have alleged that the company was using unsafe drilling methods...Another company involved in the drilling, PT Medco Energy, has accused a drilling subcontractor called Federated International (2000)...of “gross negligence”. A criminal investigation into the causes of the disaster has made slow progress...Despite its denial of responsibility, Lapindo has so far spent more than $75m on compensation, containment and clean-up...Indonesia's central government took over managing [the crisis] last month...[it] has decided to try to divert the mud into the sea...Environmentalists say that this threatens to cause a second disaster...

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