Make Kitco Your Homepage

Norway's wealth fund puts Indonesian SOE under observation on risk to prehistoric art

Kitco News

JAKARTA, May 26 (Reuters) - Norway's wealth fund has placed an Indonesian state-controlled cement maker, in which it has a stake, under observation for three years for what it calls "risk of damage" from the firm's activities to prehistoric cave paintings on Sulawesi island.

A Semen Indonesia (SMGR.JK) subsidiary operates a mine near 18 caves in South Sulawesi which house some of the world's oldest paintings, said Norges Bank, which manages the world's biggest sovereign wealth fund Norges Bank Investment Management (NBIM).

"The background for the decision is unacceptable risk of damage on prehistoric and irreplaceable culture heritage," Norges Bank said on Thursday, citing recommendations by an ethics council.

Semen Indonesia and its subsidiary that operates in the South Sulawesi region, Semen Tonasa, did not immediately respond to Reuters' requests for comment.

NBIM is Semen Indonesia's third-largest shareholder, with 1.6% of outstanding shares as of end-2022 worth around $45 million, according to Refinitiv data.

Caves in South Sulawesi are home to paintings that are believed to be about 44,000 years old and the earliest known pictorial record of story-telling. Archaeologists have said some are rapidly decaying due to factors like salt erosion driven by climate change.

Earlier this week, UNESCO designated the area a 'global geopark', meaning it is a landscape with geological significance that should be developed sustainably.

Semen Tonasa "has no systematic monitoring of rock art sites", Norges Bank said, adding 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."

Vibrations from drilling activities and dust from trucks carrying raw material pose a risk of erosion to the cave art, it said.

Reporting by Stanley Widianto, Fransiska Nangoy; Editing by Kanupriya Kapoor
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and may not reflect those of Kitco Metals Inc. The author has made every effort to ensure accuracy of information provided; however, neither Kitco Metals Inc. nor the author can guarantee such accuracy. This article is strictly for informational purposes only. It is not a solicitation to make any exchange in commodities, securities or other financial instruments. Kitco Metals Inc. and the author of this article do not accept culpability for losses and/ or damages arising from the use of this publication.