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Asia Dive News : Pristine dive sites in North Sulawesi spared

North Sulawesi, including areas of outstanding natural beauty above and below sea level such as Bunaken National Park, Lembeh Strait and Bangka Island, has been spared an environmental tragedy.

The Indonesian Ministry of Environment recently announced that a gold mine operation, which was threatening to dump millions of tons of waste into the sea in North Sulawesi, will not be allowed to do so. British-registered “Archipelago Holdings” gold mine (operating locally as “MSM”), threatened to dump up to 1,500,000 tons of ground up mining waste into the sea, between the award-winning Bunaken National Park and the famous Lembeh Strait.

Marine biologists acknowledge that North Sulawesi is the centre of marine bio-diversity on the planet. It is now a popular destination for discerning dive tourists, earmarked to become a World Heritage Site.

The North Sulawesi Watersports Association (NSWA), which represents many of the area's dive resorts, helped achieve this important victory in the protection of a unique marine habitat. The NSWA launched a local media campaign to raise awareness of the threat, even presenting the case to representatives of the Indonesian Parliament.

The Ministry's announcement comes as welcome news for sustainable development. However, concern still remains about how the gold mine will dispose of its waste. It is believed that it is now planning to dump it on land, but this could lead to new threats. Local environmentalists are worried that toxic bi-products of the mining process could end up in the area's water, creating a health risk to the local population. Also, that an earthquake, in this seismically active area, could trigger a landslide. (A recent earthquake in Papua led to a deadly landslide at another mine.)