Norway’s Wealth Fund Places Indonesian Firm Under Observation

Norway’s sovereign wealth fund run by Norges Bank Investment Management (NBIM), has placed Semen Indonesia, an Indonesian state-controlled cement maker, under observation for three years for the “risk of damage” to prehistoric cave paintings on Sulawesi Island by the firms’ activities.

One of the company’s subsidiaries operates a mine near 18 caves in South Sulawesi. An area that houses some of the world’s oldest paintings, according to NBIM.

“The background for the decision is unacceptable risk of damage on prehistoric and irreplaceable cultural heritage,” NBIM said on May 25.

In a statement on its website Norges said: “The Council on Ethics recommends that PT Semen Indonesia (Persero) Tbk (SIG) be placed under observation for a period of three years pursuant to the ethical guidelines’ criterion concerning “other particularly serious violations of fundamental ethical norms”.  The Council’s recommendation rests on the risk of damage to prehistoric and especially important cultural heritage sites.”

“SIG is Indonesia’s largest producer of cement. Through its subsidiary, PT Semen Tonasa, the company operates a limestone quarry, a clay pit and cement factories in the Maros-Pangkep karst landscape in South Sulawesi, Indonesia. Some of the oldest rock art in the world is to be found inside or adjacent to the areas in which Semen Tonasa holds mining concessions, including cave art which is found to be at least 43,900 years old.”

“Semen Tonasa has no systematic monitoring of rock art sites which provides a basis for assessing the activities’ impact on the rock art. The Council on Ethics considers that the company must take particular responsibility for ensuring that Semen Tonasa’s activities do not contribute to the destruction of the rock art, given the outstanding global significance of the cultural heritage it represents.”

“This responsibility also extends to the protection of cultural heritage as yet undiscovered. The company has disclosed that it will implement further measures to ensure the protection of the heritage sites.  As the measures are still in the planning stage, the Council recommends that SIG be placed under observation in order to monitor the implementation of these measures.”