Norway Pension Board Puts Indonesian Firm Under Observation

Indonesia’s largest cement producer allegedly presents a risk of damage to prehistoric cultural heritage sites.

Norges Bank has placed Indonesian cement producer PT Semen Indonesia Tbk under observation for three years due to an alleged “risk of damage to prehistoric and especially important cultural heritage sites.” 

The executive board of Norges Bank, which manages Norway’s $1.3 trillion Pension Fund Global sovereign wealth fund, said its decision was based on a recommendation from the fund’s Council on Ethics, which monitors the portfolio to determine whether companies should be excluded. It submits recommendations for the exclusion and observation of specific companies to Norges Bank.

PT Semen Indonesia is Indonesia’s largest producer of cement and operates a limestone quarry, a clay pit and four cement factories through subsidiary PT Semen Tonasa in the Maros Pangkep area of the Indonesian province of South Sulawesi. According to the Council on Ethics’ report, some of the world’s oldest rock art is located in the Maros Pangkep region. It noted that a cave discovered there in 2017 contains a 44,000-year-old hunting scene considered to be the world’s oldest figurative cave art.

Just last week, UNESCO added Maros Pangkep to the UNESCO Global Geoparks Network. The designation recognizes geological heritage of international significance and is intended to combine conservation with public outreach and sustainable development. [Source]

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The Council said that with the help of experts, it has investigated the risk of Semen Tonasa’s activities damaging the rock art and identified 40 locations containing rock art and archaeological sites inside or adjacent to the areas where Semen Tonasa holds mining concessions.

“The rock art is in the process of deterioration,” said the report. “Climate change, driven by human activity, seems to be an important factor. There is no clear evidence that the company’s activity is harming the rock art, but the company’s activity increases the risk.”

The report alleges that Semen Tonasa has no systematic method of monitoring rock art sites to provide a basis for assessing the company’s impact on the rock art. The Council attributed the lack of assessment to weak underlying data and inadequate monitoring of the sites.

“The Council considers that a lack of oversight over the impact of the company’s operations constitutes a significant risk, given the outstanding cultural heritage which the rock art represents,” the report said. “Without adequate steps to identify risks and implement necessary measures, the Council considers the risk that the company’s operations may damage examples of irreplaceable cultural heritage to be unacceptable.”

PT Semen Indonesia did not immediately respond to a request for comment.


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