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A Brief History of Mineral Exploration and

Mining in Sumatra
Conference Paper November 2014
DOI: 10.13140/2.1.2278.5607




2 authors, including:
Theo van Leeuwen

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Retrieved on: 02 November 2016


17-18 November 2014, Palembang, South Sumatra, Indonesia

A Brief History of Mineral Exploration and Mining in Sumatra

Theo van Leeuwen
Jalan Haji Naim IIIb No 8, Jakarta 12150

Mineral exploration and mining activities in Sumatra, which go back to pre-historic times, have been
dominated by gold, involving both the local population and mostly foreign companies. The first
documented mining activity is the re-opening of the ancient silver-rich Salido gold mine in West Sumatra
in 1669 by the VOC, a Dutch trading company that for two centuries monopolized trade between Europe
and Asia. The government of the Netherlands East Indies initiated geological investigations combined
with mineral exploration in 1850 and private industry followed 30 years later. Between 1899 and 1940,
14 gold mines were developed, including two alluvial dredging operations, most of which were shortlived and uneconomic. Total production between 1899 and 1940 amounted to 101 t Au and 1.2 million t
Ag. Only Lebong Donok and Lebong Tandai in Bengkulu, which up to 1940 produced together 79.2 t Au
and 651 t Ag, were highly profitable. In addition alluvial tin and Fe/base-metalAu skarn deposits were
mined on a small scale. During the Japanese occupation, its aftermath, and the first 20 years of
Indonesias independence there was very little activity. Introduction of new foreign investment and
mining laws by the New Order Government in 1967 heralded a new era of exploration and mining,
which continues to the present day. It witnessed several peaks in exploration activity, viz. 1969-1973
(porphyry copper), 1985-1990 (gold), 1995-1999 (gold), and 2006-2010 (multi-commodity). Several
types of mineralization were disccovered that were not previously known, including porphyry Cu, highsulphidation Au, sediment-hosted Au, and Sedex and Mississippi Valley-type Pb-Zn. Mining activity
during the modern area has been restricted to the re-opening of Lebong Tandai (1985-1995), and
development of three small low/intermediate-sulphidation epithermal Au-Ag vein deposits (Bukit
Tembang, 1997-2000; Way Linggo, 2010-2013) ; Talang Santo, starting in 2014 ), and a medium-sized
high-sulphidation epithermal Au deposit (Martabe, starting 2012). In addition several domestic
companies have been exploiting small Fe skarn deposits in recent years. Despite its long exploration and
mining history Sumatra is underexplored by world standards.

Sumatra, the worlds 6th largest island, has a
history of mineral exploration and mining that
goes back to pre-historic times. Throughout its
history the local population has been involved
in gold mining, both alluvial and hardrock, but
their activities are poorly documented, and
therefore are only briefly mentioned in this
paper under the heading Local Gold Mining.
Better known are the activities undertaken by
European explorers and miners during the
Dutch colonial era. They have been described
by Rutten (1927), ter Braake (1944), van der
Ploeg (1944), and van Bemmelen (1949). Their
publications form the main basis of the section

named Dutch colonial Era. Between 1942 and

1969, a period which spanned the Japanese
occupation of Indonesia, followed by a brief
return of the Dutch, and the first 20 years of
independance of the Republic of Indonesia,
hardly any exploration and mining took place in
Sumatra. The stiuation started to change when
foreign companies were invited by the New
Order Government of President Suharto to
participate in the development of Indonesias
mineral resources. Since then mineral
exploration has taken place continuously in
Sumatra, albeit at varying intensity. For this
period (Modern Era) I have used the following
sources of information: unpublished company
reports, various trade journals, company


17-18 November 2014, Palembang, South Sumatra, Indonesia

websites and other internet sources, written

communications from
collegues, my own
recollections, and published papers. Only the
latter have been referenced in the text. I have
also made use of a review of Sumatras metallic
mineral resources presented by Crow and van
Leeuwen (2005), and a GIS data base, called
Indonesian Mineral Deposit Database, that I
have been compiling together with Peter
Pieters since 2005. In the final section of the
paper I summarize and discuss the main results
of the mineral exploration and mining activities
during the Dutch colonial and modern eras.
Ancient Chinese and Hindu manuscripts speak
of unbelievable gold treasures to be found in
various parts of Southeast Asia. One of these
areas was known by its Sanskrit name of
(Island of Gold), which
according to some scholars refers to Sumatra
(e.g. Drakard, 1999), although others think that
this name may correspond to a larger region in
SE Asia (e.g. Bennett, 2009). While textual
evidence may be ambiguous, there is plenty of
physical evidence to indicate that Sumatra was
the site of a flourishing gold mining industry in
pre-historic times. When early European
explorers and traders came to the island, they
found widespread abandoned alluvial and
underground gold workings. The extensiveness
of some of these workings suggest the presence
of a very large, organized workforce , and it
seems probable that Hindu immigrants taught
the native population the difficult art of building
shafts and tunnels. Some of the larger sites
include Lebong Donok in Bengkulu, where
large grinding stones and classical gold coins
have been found (Hvig, 1912; Miksic, 2004),
underground excavations in palaeo-alluvials
covered by volcanic deposits in Jambi (ter
Braake, 1944), and Salido in West Sumatra.
Waste material found in the vicinity of Donok
assayed 180-200 g/t Au and 300-1200 g/t Ag,
suggesting that only very high bonanza grades
were mined (Hvig, 1912). There is
archeological evidence that indicates that gold
was melted and worked at Kota China, which
was a major trading centre between the 12th

and 14th centuries, located 6 km SW of

Belawan in northeast Sumatra, and that
mercury was used for amalgamation (Miksic,
1979; Swan and Scott, 1986). Local alluvial
deposits were probably the main source of
gold. (Swan and Scott, 1986). The nearest hard
rock workings are located 50 km soutwest of
Kota Cina (Miksic, 1979).
In addition to this physical evidence there are
stories, legends, and written reports that
suggest that gold played an important role in
the early history of Sumatra. Here are a few
examples. In the 14th century, the Sumatran
ruler Adityavarman, who had an honorific title
of Kanakamedinindra (Gold Land Lord), is
thought to have moved his capital to the
malaria-infested coast of West Sumatra,
because of rich gold deposits present in the
hinterland ( Miksik, 2004). Many stories have
been told over the ages in the Lebong district
about Sultan Daula Mahkoeta Alamsjah, a
descendant of Alexander the Great, who once
ruled the mighty empire of Pagar Roejoeng and
sent his explorers out over the mountains to
search for precious metals (ter Braake, 1944).
Captain William Dampier (1651-1715), an
English navigator and accomplished naturalist
and writer, who made three voyages around
the world, reported in 1689 that significant
amounts of gold were mined in Aceh: This Gold
they have from some Mountains a pretty way
within Land from Achin, but within their
Dominions, and rather near the West Coast than
the Streights of Malacca. I made some Inquiry
concerning their getting Gold, and was told,
that none but Mahometans were permitted to
go to the Mines. That it was both troublesome
and dangerous to pass the Mountains, before
they came thither. That at the Mines it was so
sickly that not half of those that went thither did
ever return.
Artisanal gold mining would appear to have
taken place throughout most of the Dutch
colonial era, but was often a slack-season
activity for people primarily engaged in
agriculture, or increased in intensity during
times that the price of agriculture products like
rubber was low (Rueben, 1989; van der Ploeg,


17-18 November 2014, Palembang, South Sumatra, Indonesia

Figure 1. Main centers of local gold mining in

Sumatra in late 2000s. After Ismawati (2010).

1944). Coupers (1856) described how the local

people in the Padang Highlands went about
searching for gold. Yellow-, red- and blackveined rocks were considered to be a
favourable indication, but equally, if not more,
important was the presence of fire flies and two
types of shrub, and hearing three different
sounds, including something similar to the
hammering sound made by goldsmiths. When
these criteria had been met several days of
rituals followed, after which the search for gold
commenced. These explorations methods
appear to have been quite effective as more
than 200 gold workings were active in the
highlands when Coupers was a resident there.
After Indonesia had gained independance gold
mining by the local population continued largely
on a seasonal basis with the exception of the
last 35 years which saw higher gold prices,
prompting an increasing number of people to
carry out mining on a more permanent basis.
Figure 1 shows the main centers of artisanal
and small-scale mining activities in the late
Portuguese travelers of the 16th century knew
that Sumatra was rich in gold and ardently
searched for it on Nias island, off the west

coast. They, and later the Dutch, believed that

Sumatra must be the location of the biblical
Ophir, the site of King Solomons mines (Hesse,
1690, in Heidhues, 2006), although Ophir is not
neccessarily the location of a gold mine, but
may simply be a place where gold was traded
(Heidhues, 2006). In 1663, the Dutch East Indies
Compagnie or VOC) established a foothold in
Padang on the west coast, where it attempted
to divert the pepper and gold trade from Aceh
to its own buyers. The VOC was the worlds
most powerful trading house in the 17th and
18th centuries. Soon after its establishment in
1602 it succeeded in eliminating the Portuguese
as competitors in the trade between Europe
and Asia. Although the companys policy was to
expand trading monopolies and not to acquire
territory, it took control of an abandoned Au-Ag
mine at Salido, 50 km south of Padang, in 1669
(Fig. 2). Two reasons have been given for this:
the VOC needed silver for the minting of its own
coins as it was chronically short of money (ter
Braake, 1944), or it needed gold to purchase
textiles from India that were traded for pepper
in West Sumatra (Rueb, 1989). Miners were
recruited from Germany, while the manual
labour was done by slaves, first from Nias, and
later from Madagascar, Malabar, Timor and
Roti. The death rate among both workers and
slaves, many of whom died before even
reaching the island, was horrendous (Lombard,
1971). Processing the ore on site proved
difficult, and from 1675 handpicked ore was
shipped to Europe. The mine was a loss-making
venture most of the time and the company
finally closed it in 1696, leasing it to a local
ruler. At that time the mine had been
developed to the third level where rich ore was
still present (Hoogenraad, 1934). Causes of the
mines failure included: 1) unfamiliar geological
conditions; 2) constant problems in getting
competent mining personnel and enough slaves
to do the heavy work, especially in view of the
high death rates; 3) difficult logistics and
chronic shortage of vital supplies: and 4) an
undisciplined European workforce, who were
drunk most of the time (Hoogenraad, 1934;
Heidhues, 2006). Another attempt at mining the
deposit was made in 1724, but was equally


17-18 November 2014, Palembang, South Sumatra, Indonesia

Figure 2. Old print of the Salido mine

unsuccessful, and exploitation definitely ceased

in 1735 (Hoogenraad, 1934).
Salido was the VOCs only significant mining
venture. In this respect the difference between
the objectives of the Spanish and Dutch
colonizers is striking. While the Spaniards
foremost goal was to find gold in their overseas
territories (they were looking for Eldorado), the
Dutch stuck to their traditional occupation of
trading. As early as the beginning of the 19th
century the mineral wealth of the countries
under Spanish influence, including the
Philippines, was well known. In contrast, before
1850 very little had been recorded on the
presence of mineral deposits in the Netherlands
East Indies. It was only after two and half
centuries of colonial rule that the Dutch
developed an interest in the mineral potential
of their territory. In 1850, a Mines Bureau was
established, that was given the task to explore
for minerals, coal, and petroleum, and also to
carry out geological investigations. During the
ensuing years Sumatra was more frequently
and intensively investigated than any of the

other larger islands in the archipelago. This had

several reasons. Old reports regarding the
mineral wealth of the island led to the initial
surveys; the discovery of the important Umbilin
coal field in West Sumatra in 1868 justified
continuation of the exploration efforts; and the
rapid development of gold mining and oil
winning during the early part of the 20th
century stimulated more detailed geological
investigations. By 1924 about three quarters of
the island had been covered by surveys of
various nature, predominantly reconnaissance.
More than 30 years after the Bureau of Mines
had commenced its activities, the private sector
also began to show an interest in the mineral
potential of Sumatra. One of the first initiatives
was taken by a prospector named R.J. Verbeek,
who in 1886 started to promote gold and silver
exploration in West Sumatra and the Tapanuli
region. He made several efforts to reopen the
Salido mine, in which he finally succeeded in
1914. However, it was closed again in 1928. It
could be argued that through the interest
Verbeek had generated in the precious metal


17-18 November 2014, Palembang, South Sumatra, Indonesia

Figure 3. Map showing the location of deposits mined during the Dutch Colonial Era together with years of
production and amounts of Au and Ag produced

potential of the region he was indirectly

responsible for the discovery of the Mangani
deposit in West Sumatra, which was brought
into production in 1912.
While Verbeek was busy promoting West
Sumatra and Tapanuli, an administrator of a
coffee plantation in Bengkulu was shown some
ore samples, which led him to a large outcrop of
Au-bearing quartz at Lebong Donong in 1895, at
the time mined by local villagers. He was able
to raise money for exploration and in 1897 the
mining company Redjang Lebong was
established. Development started in 1899. The
project was extremely profitable: during the
first 14 years its share holders received dividend
payments that equaled eight times their
investment. Not surprisingly, this spurred
intensive exploration in the region, as a result of

which several more deposits were discovered.

Two of these were developed, viz. Lebong Sulit
and Simau (Lebong Tandai), in 1903 and 1910
respectively. The success of private enterprise
induced the colonial government in 1905 to
declare a large part of Bengkulu to be reserved
for government investigations. This resulted in
the development of two more mines, Lebong
Simpang and Tambang Sawah, in 1921/23. In
West Sumatra and Tapanuli, five small privately
owned mines were put into operation between
1931 and 1936: Balimbing, Gunung Arum,
Muara Sipongi and Bulangsi. In addition two
alluvial dredging operations got off the ground
not long before the outbreak of the Pacific War,
one at Bengkalis in eastern Sumatra (Logas), the
other in Aceh near Meulaboh (Woyla river). The
location, years of production, and output of the
mines developed during the Dutch Colonial Era


17-18 November 2014, Palembang, South Sumatra, Indonesia

are shown in Figure 3. When the Japanese

occupied the Indonesian region only three
hardrock mines were still in production in
Sumatra: Lebong Tandai, Lebong Simpang and
Mangani. During the war mining operations
continued only at Lebong Tandai and Logas.
All the hardrock mines developed during the
Dutch colonial era were Late Cenozoic vein
deposits, with the exception of Muara Sipongi
(skarn) and Bulangsi (pre-Tertiary slate-hosted
mineralization). Together with the two alluvial
operations they produced a total of 101 t Au
and 1.2 million t Ag . Only Lebong Donok and
Lebong Tandai turned out to be economic
success stories. But in the case of Lebong
Tandai the story could have had a different
ending as illustrated by the name of one of the
ore shoots: Just in time reef.
The only other commodities mined briefly by
the Dutch were tin from alluvial deposits in the
Bangkinang district and base metals from small
skarn deposits.
Government-sponsored Surveys
Between 1975 and 1994 the British Geological
Survey was involved in three technical cooperation projects in Sumatra with the
Indonesian Ministry of Mines and Energy, which
were supported with funding from the UK
Department for International Developmen,
Administration. This work involved regional
geological, geochemical and geophysical
mapping programs, and was principally aimed
at encouraging mining company activity to
develop Sumatras mineral resources. Training
of Indonesian counterparts was a major
component of the co-operation. The three
projects consisted of:
a) North Sumatra Project (NSP; 1975 1980).
This project produced regional geological
maps and geochemical maps (based on
widespaced stream sediment sampling) at
1:250,000 scale for Sumatra north of the
Equator. Each geological map is

accompanied by a report. The program is

described by Page et al. (1978).
b) Northern Sumatra Geochemical and
Mineral Exploration Project (1984 1988),
which involved follow-up work of data
generated by the North Sumatra Project.
All mineral targets are described in a series
of reports that are available for inspection
and copying at the Mineral Resources
Department in Bandung.
c) Southern Sumatra Geological and Mineral
Project (SSGMEP; 1988 1994). The
program was similar to that carried out in
northern Sumatra. In addition 1:250,000
Bouguer anomaly maps were compiled for
some quadrangles and a metalliferous
mineral occurrence data base was put
A single geological and geochemical database
for the whole island of Sumatra is available on
CD-ROM (Johnson, 1995). It includes the
mineral occurrence database for southern
Sumatra, a slightly modified version of which is
available as hard copy (Crow, 1995). The two
most relevant references to the geochemical
surveys are atlases produced for north and
south of the equator (Stephenson et al., 1982;
Muchsin et al., 1997).
Concurrently with and following the joint
departments of the Indonesian Ministry of
Miners and Energy carried out a number of
geological mapping surveys and mineral
Private Industry Activities
During the first 25 years after the war the only
activity of note in Sumatra was the resumption
of dredging operations at Logas between 1954
and 1958, and again between 1964 and 1970.
The situation changed dramatically with the
introduction of a Foreign Capital Investment
Law and revision of the Mining Law in 1967,
which allowed foreign investment in the mining
sector under a Contract of Work (COW) system.
This heralded a long period of mineral
exploration in Sumatra, which lasts till the


17-18 November 2014, Palembang, South Sumatra, Indonesia

Figure 4. Mineral exploration activity during the Modern Era shown in a schematic way
together with associated events

No COWs signed
Exploration Type


Mine Development

Table 1 : Summary Modern Era

1969 - 1980
1994 - 2005
(incl. old Dutch
(incl. old Dutch
Bukit Tembang
Upper Tengkereng
Way Linggo
Aloe Rek
Lebong Tandai

Bukit Tembang

4.6 t Au, 24 t Ag
7.15 t Au, ~75 t Ag
GF = green fields; BF = brown fields; x = COW systems abolished.

2006 - present


Way Linggo
Talang Santo
Several small Fe
20 t Au, 143.5 t Ag



17-18 November 2014, Palembang, South Sumatra, Indonesia

Figure 5. Phase I (1969-1980); tenement situation and location of prospects mentioned in the text

present day. It can be divided into four phases

(I-IV), each starting with a brief boom in
exploration activities, followed by a longer
lasting slowdown, that can be linked to events
taking place both within Indonesia and
worldwide (Fig. 4). There is no sharp division
between the various phases as some
exploration programs continued from one
phase to another. Figures 5 to 8 show the
tenement situation and the location of the
more significant prospects that were discovered
and/or investigated during a particular phase.
Salient features are summarized in Table 1.
Phase I (1969-1980) (Figure 5)
In 1969, the government offered 10 blocks in
Sumatra for general mineral exploration
under a 2nd generation COW. These were taken
up by a consortium led by Newmont (Aceh),
Overseas Mineral Resources of Japan or OMR

(North Sumatra), Rio Tinto (West Sumatra), and

Kennecott (Bengkulu). In all four cases porphyry
copper deposits were the main target. Twenty
years earlier de Haan (1949) had published a
paper with as title Bevat Sumatra porphyry
coppers ? (Does Sumatra contain porphyry
coppers?). He noted that disseminated copper
minerals occurred in granitoids at several
localities in West Sumatra and South Tapanuli,
and while at the surface their economic
significance appeared to be low, he wondered
whether enriched chalcocite blankets might
have formed at depth like in North America.
The results of the surveys carried out in the four
COW areas, which were largely completed by
1973, suggested that the answer to de Haans
question was no. Although Rio Tinto found
four porphyry systems, all turned out to be
copper-poor (Taylor and van Leeuwen (1981).
Two possible reasons were subsequently given


17-18 November 2014, Palembang, South Sumatra, Indonesia

for the apparent absence of significant porphyry

copper deposits in Sumatra: the crust that was
subducted beneath the island during the
Neogene was too young to have generated
suitable melts (Hutchison and Taylor, 1978).
When in 1972 the gold price took off from its
cellar price of US $ 35 per oz, Rio Tinto added
alluvial gold deposits amenable to large-scale
low-cost dredging as an exploration target. The
concept of using a very large dredge was based
on the super (worlds largest) tin dredge the
company was building at the time in Malaysia.
As time was important, area selection was
limited to map and literature research. The
search perimeter was mainly drawn over the
coastal plain, wide valleys , and large
intermontaine basins, which would allow the
use of a large dredgde, with particular
attentiom being paid to slope interruption
zones coinciding with converging river systems,
either modern or ancient, and the location of
reported gold occurrences. Three areas were
selected for closer investigation, namely , from
south to north, Rawas-Tembesi, Batang Hari,
and Inderagiri-Singingi (located downstream of
the old Logas mine). Bangka drilling produced
negative results for the first two areas and
showed part of the third to be sub-economic
(Toh, 1977) with a resource of 180 Mm @ 90
mg/m Au (van Leeuwe, 1994). Around the
same time Associated Mines re-visited the
Woyla deposit, which was equally unsuccessful.
Exploration came more or less to a standstill
during the second half of the 1970s. This can be
attributed to a combination of lack of
exploration success, low commodity prices and
more onerous COW terms introduced by the
government, including a windfall profits tax and
restrictions on foreign remittances. The few
companies that continued to do some work
included Rio Tinto and Amax. Rio Tinto
investigated the Tangse porphyry Cu-Mo
prospect in Aceh between 1979 and 1981. It
had been found a few years earlier by one of
the NSP teams, who spotted altered, stockworkfractured porphyry in a road cut. This was
followed up by a soil sampling program that
outlined an extensive area of anomalous Cu-Mo

values (Young and Johari, 1978). The results of

Rio Tintos work, including a scout drilling
program, suggested the presence of a large but
low grade porphyry Cu-Mo system (van
Leeuwen et al., 1987). Around the same time
the company carried out a helicopter-supported
stream sampling program in Aceh, which was
aimed to check anomalies identified during the
NSP survey and fill in gaps. Several new weak
Cu-Mo stream sediment anomalies were
detected and followed up, including at Beutong,
Dusun and Kutacane. Of these Beutong
appeared to be to the most interesting: a 5 sq
km area of phyllic and advanced argillic altered
diorite roughly coincided with Cu-Mo in-soil
and magnetic anomalies. Rock samples assayed
between 0.1 and 0.3% Cu, and skarn
mineralization was locally observed. However,
in view of the relaively low grades and extreme
remoteness of the area it was decided to
discontinue the work. Amax, at the time the
worlds largest direct producer of molybdenum,
was also interested in the NSP results, as they
included a few indications of molybdenum
mineralization. Their approach was different
from Rio Tintos, and at the time rather noval: it
involved a fixed-wing survey over the Barisan
Mountains, looking for features such as ironstained landslide scars. One of the localities
investigated on the ground was at Ise-Ise (Air
Moli), which was, however, considered too
small. Amax also carried out an examination of
the Woyla deposit, including drilling of 130
churn drill holes between 1978 and 1980..
Phase II (1981-1993) (Figure 6)
In 1979/80 the price of gold started to rise
rapidly, creating a renewed interest in Sumatra,
this time also from junior companies, mostly
from Australia, which further increased when
the government modified the COW terms in
order to make them more attractive. One of the
improvements was that a standard contract was
offered, thus avoiding long and drawnout
negotiations. In 1985, three 3rd Generation
COWS were entered into, which was followed
by the signing of twenty 4th Generation COWs
between 1986 and 1988. Some companies
selected old Dutch gold mining areas, like CSR
and Aberfoyle, or nearby areas, like Newmont.


17-18 November 2014, Palembang, South Sumatra, Indonesia

Figure 6. Phase II (1981-1983 ); tenement situation and location of prospect/deposits mentioned in the text

Others opted for grass roots exploration

projects, an example being
Energy and Minerals, who undertook a number
of regional geochemical drainage sampling
programs over a 9,500 sq km area in Lampung
(PT Natarang Mining COW), which led to the
discovery of the Way Linggo gold district (see
below). By the time the last COW was signed,
stockmarkets worldwide had crashed, which
was followed by a decline in the price of gold.
This had a severe impact on exploration activity
in Indonesia, including Sumatra.
A few of the more notable events of the shortlived gold exploration boom include the reopening of the Lebong Tandai mine, discovery
of Bukit Tembang, and identification of the Way
Linggo area as an epithermal Au target.
Between 1980 and 1983 the old workings at

Lebong Tandai were partially reopened and

dewatered by CSR, who sampled veins and
carried out drilling. In 1984, reserves stood at
290,000 t @ 12.2 g/t Au and 87 g/t Ag.
Development of the project faced many
challenges because of its remote location and
difficult access that involved road, river and rail
transport (Pooley and West, 1986). Production
started in early 1986. By that time CSR had been
taken over by Billiton, who operated the mine
until 1992, leaving its domestic partner to
continue the operations. Production between
1986 and 1992 amounted to 4.6 t Au and 24 t
Ag. In 1995, the government revoked the COW
due to the companys financial difficulties.
A literature study carried out by Rio Tinto in the
early 1980s identified the Bukit Tembang area,
where the presence of old Dutch gold workings


17-18 November 2014, Palembang, South Sumatra, Indonesia

was reported (Bernai vein) as a target for

epithermal Au mineralization. Investigations
carried out between 1983 and 1989 outlined a
resource of about 3.2 Mt @ 3.1 g/t Au and 46
g/t Ag, too small to be of interest to the
company. The project was sold to Setco in 1991
and 2 years later taken over by Laverton Gold.
This company started mine construction in
1995, and the first gold was poured in 1997. At
the time the total resource amounted to 13 Mt
@ 2.45 g/t Au and 27 g/t Ag, and mine life was
expected to last more than 10 years. In 2000,
however, an average gold price of US$ 250/oz
versus average production costs of US$ 278/oz
rendered the project uneconomic and the mine
was closed after having produced 7.2 tonnes of
In 1989, Ashton Mining followed up higher
Musswellbrooks regional programs in the PT
Natarang Mining COW area, however, without
success. By chance, two pieces of banded
quartz vein float were sampled 15 km down
stream of the Way Linggo area, which had
produced only low order anomalies. Although
they yielded low Au grades (2-3 ppm), further
work was instigated because of interesting
epithermal textures observed in the vein
material. This led to the discovery of an
extensive epithermal float train in the drainage
2.5 km east of Way Linggo, the Semung Kecil
prospect. Soil surveys identified a well defined
Au-As-Ag anomaly coincident with some surface
outcrops of siliceous sinter, but subsequent
trenching and drilling failed to confirm
significant mineralization. However, peripheral
mapping found indications of mineralized
quartz veins at Way Linggo (Andrews, 2013).
During the first half of the 1990s exploration
activity was subdued and only two new COWs
were signed. Compared to the gold boom of the
1980s it was relatively successful as several new
discoveries were made. While conducting a
regional reconnaissance survey in central Aceh
in 1990, high sulphidation Cu-Au mineralization
was found at Miwah by a team of Highland
Gold geologists after tracing altered boulders
for more than 45 km up drainages to their

source (Williamson and Fleming, 1995).

Detailed work, including 3,100 m of drilling,
carried out between 1995 and 1997, outlined a
mineralized silica-alunite body with a grossly
delineated volume of 100 Mt at 0.6 to 1.0 g/t
Au. During the same period the company drilled
35 holes at the Beutong prospect, on the basis
of which an inferred resource of 40 Mt @ 0.85%
Cu was estimated. Another regional sampling
program that met with some success was the
one carried out by Rio Tinto in SE Aceh. Followup of weakly elevated Cu-Mo and Au stream
sediment anomalies identified possible
porphyry-style mineralization at Tengkereng
and gold in silicified limestone (jasperoid) and
altered volcanics at Abong.
Phase III (1994-2005) (Figure 7)
In the mid-1990s the exploration scene in
Indonesia changed almost overnight. The main
trigger was the discovery of the Busang gold
deposit in East Kalimantan, which puportedly
increased in size by leaps and bounds. This time
the exploration boom was spearheaded by
Canadian juniors. Kalimantan was naturally the
main focus of attention, but Sumatra also
recieved a fair bit of interest. Between 1997 and
early 1998 15 COWs were signed . Areas
selected included both old gold mine districts,
like Mangani and Salido, and (semi-) greenfields
areas. Exploration in the latter areas produced
the most interesting results. These include
discoveries in the Tengkereng, Aloe Rek,
Martabe, Sihayo , Dairi and Napal districts,
which are described below.
As mentioned above, earlier work carried out
by Rio Tinto in SE Aceh identified possible
porphyry Cu mineralization in the Tengkereng
district, but this was not followed up at the
time. Following the discovery of Grasberg and
Batu Hijau the company became interested
again in porphyry coppers . A desktop study
concluded that the search for and evaluation of
hypogene porphyry lithocaps represented the
most attractive exploration opportunities. One
of the targets identified was Tengkereng,
based on a previously undertaken petrographic
study that indicated strong development of
advanced argillic alteration. A program of


17-18 November 2014, Palembang, South Sumatra, Indonesia

Figure 7. Phase III (1994-2005); tenement situation and location

of prospect/deposits mentioned in the text.

stream sediment sampling and prospecting for

lithocaps led to the identification of 11
prospects, nine of which were drill tested in
1994/5. This resulted in the discovery of three
porphyry systems (Upper and Lower
Tengkereng, and Upper Ise-Ise). Alteration and
mineralization appeared to be highly
telescoped, with potential for increasing grade
towards depth. Of the three prospects Upper
Tengkereng appeared to be the most promising
with a resource potential of 41 Mt @ 0.24% Cu
and 0.25 g/t Au per vertical 100m (Crow and
van Leeuwen, 2005). The nearby Abong
prospect was also drill tested, which outlined a
resource of 7.5 Mt @ 3.4 g/t Au in the
jasperoids and 2,7 Mt @ 1.16 g/t Au in the
altered volcanics, representing sediment-hosted
and epithermal styles respectively. The project

was closed in 1997 because of forestry and

security issues.
In the mid-1990s, a JV between Barrick Gold
and PT Mutiari Mitramin (in 1999 renamed PT
Woyla Aceh Minerals) selected an area in
central Aceh because of its proximity to Miwah.
Exploration included a helicopter-flown
aeromagnetic and radiometric survey, Landsat
TM based lithostructural interpretations, and
helicopter-supported regional stream sediment
sampling and mapping. Observation of
mineralized float accompanied by weak Au-instream sediment anomalies and significant
amounts of Au in pan concentrates led in 1996
to the discovery of a new mineralized district
epithermal Au-Ag quartz vein
systems over a strike length of 5 km, including
Aloe Rek . These systems show high-level


17-18 November 2014, Palembang, South Sumatra, Indonesia

features in the north (banded chalcedonic

quartz, presence of sinter, strong Au-Ag-AsHg
association, low T fluid inclusions) and deeper
level features in the south ( crystalline vein
quartz, increase in base metals, higher T fluid
Arguably the most important discovery made
during Phase III is
the Martabe highsulphidation Au district in North Sumatra. A
stream sediment sampling program undertaken
by a joint venture between Normandy and
Anglo American using BLEG techniques in a
600,000 ha COW area generated a number of
Au anomalies, including 14 ppb Au in the Aek
Paku river.
Follow-up mapping in 1996
indentified mineralized silica float that returned
up to 20.3 ppm Au and 76 ppm Ag. This float
was derived from prominent silica ledges.
Subsequent soil sampling and mapping outlined
a number of prospects over a strike length of 7
km. Helicopter-supported drilling started in
1998, and in 2003 a resource of 66.7 Mt @ 1.74
g/t Au and 21.6 g/t Ag had been delineated at
the main prospect, named Purnama (Sutopo et
al., 2003).
reconnaissance for gold and base metals
carried out by Herald Resources in JV with PT
Aneka Tambang (Antam) in late 1997, also in
North Sumatra, massive sulphides rich in zinc
and lead of apparently stratiform nature were
discovered in outcrop in the creek-bed of Lae
Sopokomil in the Dairi district. Previously, the
NSP survey had obtained high Pb-Zn values
from a stream sediment sample in the lower
reaches of this river. Regional stream sediment
surveys undertaken by Antam in 1991/93 also
highlighted anomalous Pb-Zn in Lae Sopokomil,
which led to the discovery of argentiferous
galena-sphalerite bearing quartz veins at
several localities in the catchment. Base metal
and weak gold anomalies were also indentified
elsewhere in the district. Herald recognized that
the mineralization found in 1997 was a generic
Sedex style, hosted by black shales and
siltstones. Over the following years detailed
investigations took place. In addition to the

quartz-vein and Sedex styles, sphalerite-rich

mineralization was found in up to 30 m zones
within carbonates, interpreted to be Mississippi
Valley Type mineralization, and karst type with
abundant Zn and Pb oxides. Ten million tonnes
of indicated and inferred resources were
delineated, including 6.3 Mt @ 16.0% Zn and
9.9% Pb at the Anjing Hitam Sedex deposit. In
2002, a prefeasibility study was commenced of
what was referred to as the Dairi zinc-lead
project (Middleton, 2003).
Soon after the Dairi discovery in early 1998,
Aberfoyle identified sediment-hosted gold
mineralization at Sihayo in the Pungkut area. It
was the result of a 3 year systematic regional
geochemical sampling program of a COW area,
again located in North Sumatra, covering about
200,000 ha. This area had been selected
following a geological reconnaissance and lead
isotope studies. The initial concept was for VMS
mineralization in a belt centered on the old
Dutch Pagar Gunung base-metal prospect
(considered by some geologists to have VMS
affinity), but the COW block was subsequently
also thought to have potential for porphyry and
epithermal styles of mineralization in view of its
favourable geotectonic setting, including
structural complexity provided by the Sumatra
Fault Zone, which cut the area. The Sihayo
discovery resulted from dilligent follow up of a
weak BLEG stream sediment anomaly in a small
stream. In 1999, Pacmin Mining Corporation,
who was the operator at the time, announced
an inferred resource of 3.55 Mt @ 2.7 g/t Au at
mineralization styles were recognized in the
COW area, in addition to the known Cu-Au and
Pb-Zn skarn mineralization, including porphyry
Cu, epithermal vein Au-Ag, and metasedimentary rock hosted mesothermal quartzvein Au.
Meekatharra Minerals, which in 1994 had taken
over the Natarang Mining COW from Ashton,
commenced discovery drilling at Way Linggo
and a feasibility study on the project was
completed in 1996. Napal is an example of a
prospect that was looked at by several
companies, first Paragon Resources, after that


17-18 November 2014, Palembang, South Sumatra, Indonesia

Figure 8. Phase IV (2006-present); tenement situation and location of prospects/deposits mentioned in the text

Golden Bear Minerals, and lastly Apollo Gold

Inc., over a period of more than ten years.
Narrow high-gade Au (av. 7.5 g/t) and Ag (av.
163 g/t) occur on the edge of a caldera
structure located within the Sumatra Fault
In 1997, Busang was exposed as the largest
fraud in the history of mining. Soon after that SE
Asia experienced a severe economic crisis and
the price of gold dropped, and on top of that
Indonesia became engulfed in political
instability. As a result the second exploration
boom fizzled out even faster than the boom of
the 1980s, but even so, it was relatively
successful: five significant discoveries were
made, several of which of a style that had
either not been previously recognized in
Sumatra (Sedex Pb-Zn) or only recently (highsulphidation Au; sediment-hosted Au).

During the first half of the 2000s work

continued on the three North Sumatra projects
and at Way Linggo a limited underground
operation was undertaken by a private
consortium, which in 2007 floated Kingrose
Mining on the ASX, but otherwise there was no
significant exploration activity.
Phase IV (2006-present) (Figure 8)
Around 2006, the price of gold and other metals
started to rise rapidly. This generated a
renewed interest in Sumatra on the part of
foreign corporations, albeit on a modest scale,
involving mainly junior exploration companies.
It was mostly focused on known mineralized
areas in Aceh.
The first foreign company to come to Aceh was
Freeport McMoRan, who drilled the Beutong
prospect in 2007/8 in JV with PT Emas Mineral


17-18 November 2014, Palembang, South Sumatra, Indonesia

Murni. The program was aimed at testing the

deeper parts of the deposit, which previously
had been drilled mostly to depths of less than
125 m. The results suggested potential for a 50100 Mt @ 1% Cu equivalent deposit within a
much larger mineralized envelope, which did
not meet the companys minimum target size. It
was, however, of sufficient interest to Tigers
Realms Metals (TRM), who recognized that
Beutong displayed many characteristics of
world class porphyry copper deposits. The
company carried out additional drilling starting
in 2011 (32 holes), and in late 2012 anounced a
maiden resource of 505 Mt @ 0.47% Cu and
0.13 g/t Au. A second drilling program was
iniated in late 2013. Results todate indicate that
Beutong consists of porphyry-style Cu-Mo-Au
mineralization that has been overprinted by a
high sulpidation epithemal event and is
associated with a broad zone of skarn
mineralization. An unusual feature of the
deposit is strong development of primary
covellite that replaces early porphyry-related
chalcopyrite and pyrite (Hughes and Kusnato,

2011, which resulted in a 59m intersection of

0.47% Cu and 1,2 g/t Au at the bottom of the
697 m long hole.

In 2007, East Asian Minerals Coporation (EAMC)

acquired five properties in Aceh, three of which
were ex-Rio Tinto (Tangse, Abong and
Tengkereng/Ise-Ise); the other two
Miwah and an area near Takengon, which
contained the Collins epithermal Au prospect.
During the following few years the main focus
was on Miwah and Abong where several drilling
campaigns were undertaken. In 2011, the
company announced an inferred resource for
Miwah of 104 Mt @ 0.94 g/t Au and 2.68 g/t Ag
in shallowly dipping zones of advanced
argillic/argillic altered volcanics with vuggy silica
centers and low-grade disseminated Au, which
are underlain and cut by higher grade diatreme
breccia bodies. After that very little work
appears to have been done and in June 2014
the value of the property was written down for
various reasons, including inability to obtain a
Forest Reclassification (the deposit occurs in
Protected Forest). Following re-mapping of
Upper Tengkereng and surrounding areas a
646m long hole was drilled on the prospect in
2008. The deep drilling was resumed in early

Another Canadian junior, Centurion Minerals

Ltd, initiated exploration in central Aceh in
2010, in a region previously explored by
Highlands Gold and Barrick Gold Corporation. It
carried out limited drilling on several
epithermal Au and porphyry Cu targets during
2011/12, after which there have been no
further reports.

In 2011, a new company, named Barisan Gold

Corporation (BGC), was spun-off from EAMC,
taking over the Abong and Tengkereng
tenements. One of BGCs first actions was to
estimate a resource for Abong based on EAMs
drilling results (8.5 Mt @ 1.49 g/t Au, 10.7 g/t
Ag). Due to permitting issues drilling at Upper
Tengkereng resumed only in late 2013 and by
mid-2014 8 deep holes had been completed,
intersections (including 190m @ 0.6% Cu and
1.3 g/t Au ,412m @ 0.5% Cu and 0.9 g/t Au, and
890m @ 0.5% Cu and 0.5 g/t Au). It has outlined
a high grade zone showing distinct vertical
zonation over 800m, from top to bottom:
advanced argillic altered hydrobreccias,
chalcocite-chalcopyrite. Hamid et al. (2014),
who give a detailed account of the exploration
history of Upper Tengkereng, report a resource
of 276 Mt @ 0.43% Cu and 0.63 g/t Au.

Between 2009 and 2013, Prosperity Resources

undertook investigations in west Aceh in a belt
that include the Pinang-Pinang and Panton Luas
areas. Dutch geologists had found indications of
magnetite skarn in these areas in the early
1920s. They were rediscovered as Cu-in
stream sediment anomalies by Newmont in the
early 1970s, and investigated in some detail
during Rio Tintos regional survey of parts of
Aceh in 1989-91, which showed some of the
magnetite-bearing rocks (skarn and veins) to
carry significant amounts of gold. Further
surface work was undertaken by a Meekatharra
Minerals/Teck Exploration JV in the late 1990s.
Trenching in the Pinang-Pinang area exposed


17-18 November 2014, Palembang, South Sumatra, Indonesia

zones of semi-massive and disseminated Au-Cu

mineralization hosted in sub-vertical, structurecontrolled, quartz-sulphide-magnetite breccias
and veins in diorite, with as most significant
interval 41m @ 3.54 g/t Au and 0.17% Cu.
Prosperitys work, which involved a helicopterborne magnetic survey and extensive trenching,
identified 10 targets over a strike length of 60
km., several of which were drill tested, including
Kuini and Pala in the Pinang-Pinang area.The
company concluded that based on the presence
of Au-Cu endoskarns in altered diorite, which
contain abundant hydrothermal magnetite,
dominance of veinlet/fracture controlled
mineralization over disseminated style, and
high pyrite to chalcopyrite ratios,(some of) the
mineralized centers may represent the very top
of porphyry systems. The best documented
example is Kuini where a drill hole intersected a
40 m high grade Au-Cu zone, including 1,200
ppm Mo over 5 m, characterized by Bi
anomalism, low As,
and multiphase
quartzpyrite-chalcopyrite veining (Al Furqan,
2014). The project was put on hold in 2013 due
to lack of finances.
Three foreign companies selected southern
Sumatra to carry out exploration, viz. Barrick
Gold Corporation (results not known), Sumatra
Copper & Gold (SCG) and Finders Resources.
SCG obtained several parcels of land in 2006/7,
totalling about 6000 sq km, which included the
old Bukit Tembang (re-named Tembang) and
Lebong gold mine districts with the view that
higher commodity prices and technological
advances might result in material previously
considered as sub-economic or waste being
treated economically. The short-term objective
was to quickly re-establish Au-Ag production in
these areas. The longer term aim was to
discover porphyry Cu related systems, for which
the potential was thought to be good based on
analogy with the Philippines where porphyry Cu
deposits occur within or along strike of Au-Ag
mining camps, and in proximity to a major
transcurrent fault. Most of the effort todate has
been directed towards re-opening of the
Tembang mine, where previously Laverton had
mined only the main veins and discarded the
lower grade halo mineralization. It includes

detailed drilling, several feasibility studies,

commencement of construction in 2013
(paused in late 2013), and announcement In
early 2014 of a Resource Inventory totalling 6.5
Mt @ 2.1 g/t Au and 27 g/t Ag, with production
projected to commence in the latter half of
2015 (Prasetyono et al., 2014). Arguably the
most interesting result that sofar has come out
of the regional surveys is the discovery of
manto-type gold-base metal mineralization at
Finders Resources acquired the Ojolali project
located in Lampung in 2005. It comprises a
cluster of 28 intermediate sulphidation Au-Ag
vein systems over a 20 sq km area. The
property had previously been explored by
Antares Mining and Exploration Corporation
(1997-1999), who completed 22,000 m of
shallow drilling. This company announced a
preliminary resource estimate of 2.5 Mt @
1.96 g/t Au and 16 g/t Ag. Todate Finders has
outlined indicated and inferred resources of 6.5
Mt @ 0.8 g/t Au and 4.8 g/t at the Jambi
prospect, mostly as oxidized material with a low
stripping ratio, and a mineral resource of 39.5
Moz Ag at the silver-rich Tambang prospect.
In 2009, Kingrose Mining commenced
construction of the Way Linggo mine and in
August 2010 the first gold was poured. At the
time the total mineral resource estimate
amounted to 0,71 Mt @ 10.24 g/t Au and 135.6
g/t Ag. During the first two years of operation
65,856 ounces Au and 756,471 ounces Ag were
produced. After that grade and production
rates continued to decline and in mid-2013 the
company announced it would suspend normal
mining activities. Kingrose also undertook an
extensive exploration program of the entire
tenement, including BLEG geochemistry,
airborne magnetics and radiometrics, and
CSAMT coupled with drilling. These efforts were
rewarded with the virgin discovery of the
Talang Santo deposit in 2011, located 7 km
north of Way Linggo. The deposit is significantly
larger than Way Linggo but of lower grade: 1.66
Mt @ 5.4 g/t Au and 17 g/t Ag (6/2013). Soon
after its discovery the project was fast-tracked
and production commenced in mid-2014.


17-18 November 2014, Palembang, South Sumatra, Indonesia

Figure 9. Past and current tenements held by PT Aneka Tambang

The year 2012

saw commencement of
commercial gold production from the Purnama
open pit in the Martabe district, which contains
a total resource of 207.6 Mt @ 1.2 g/t Au and
11 g/t Ag, including 104 Mt @ 1.4 g/t Au and 18
g/t Ag at Purnama (6/2013). Annual production
is estimated to be 270,000-280,000 ounces Au
and 1.5-2.0 million ounces Ag.
Even though since 1967 mineral exploration
and mining in Sumatra has been dominated by
foreign companies, domestic companies have
also played a part in its history, most notably PT
Aneka Tambang (Antam). This company has
been exploring in Sumatra since 1979 in a
number of areas (Fig. 9) either in its own right
or in joint venture with other companies, with
as main target eithermal Au-Ag mineralization.
Of particular interest is the Batangsai project in
Jambi, which was initiated in 2006. The area

had previously been briefly explored by Renison

Goldfields (1988) and Pacific Wildcat (1996/97).
Antam focused initially on low/intermediate
sulphidation epithermal
prospects, but
following the discovery of high-sulphidation
style mineralization at Bujang in 2012 and
porphyry Cu type mineralization at Batulicin
(which is also present at Bujang at depth) the
focus has shifted to these two styles (Permana
et al., 2014). Another significant event on the
domestic front took place in 2007 when PT
Bumi Resources Minerals launched a take over
bid for Herald Resources and acquired the Dairi
project in 2009. At that time total resources
stood at 25.12 Mt @ 10.1% Zn and 6.0% Pb
(Bumi Resources Annual Report 2010). The plan
is to develop the Anjing Hitam deposit by
underground methods in 2015 based on ore
reserves of 5.9 Mt @ 14.6% Zn and 9.1% Pb,


17-18 November 2014, Palembang, South Sumatra, Indonesia

making it one of the worlds richest Zn-Pb

deposits (Mulya and Hendrawan, 2014).
Noteworthy is also the development of several
high grade Fe skarn deposits in West Sumatra
and Lampung by local companies during Phase
Gold and silver are the only commodities that
feature large in the history of mining in
Sumatra. Mined by the local population since
prehistoric times, they were also the main
target of European miners during the the Dutch
colonial era, when 16 Au-Ag deposits were
exploited, mostly for short periods. Only two
mines turned out to be profitable, viz. Lebong
Donok and Lebong Tandai. Total gold
production during the period 1899 1942 is
estimated to be 101 t Au and 1.2 million t Ag.
Other commodities that were mined on a small
scale include alluvial tin and base metals. Since
Indonesia gained independence three of the
old Dutch mines were re-opened for relatively
short times (Logas, Woyla, Lebong Tandai). In
addition four new discoveries have been
developed. The largest of these is the Martabe
district in North Sumatra, which hosts a number
of high sulphidation deposits. Two others are
the small, but high grade intermediate-low
sulphidation epithermal vein deposits at Way
Linggo and Talang Santo in Lampung . The
fourth discovery, Bukit Tembang, was in
operation for only three years. In total these
seven post-war mines have produced an
estimated 34 t Au.
Mineral exploration has taken place mainly
during two periods, i.e. 1850 to 1940 and 1969
to the present. The latter period witnessed
several peak activities consisting of a porphyry
search in the early 1970s, two short-lived gold
booms in the 1980s and 1990s, and multicommodity (primarily Au, Cu and Fe)
exploration that started around 2006 but has
decreased in recent years reflecting a worldwide drop in exploration activities combined
with several domestic issues including changes
in mining policy and difficulties in gaining access
to forest areas.

The oldest known mineralization types are

low/intermediate epithermal Au/Ag veins and
alluvial Au. During the Dutch time alluvial tin,
mesothermal shale-hosted Au veins, and skarntype mineralization were also recognized.
Other mineralization styles, identified as the
result of modern exploration, include porphyry
Cu, high-sulphidation Au-Ag, sediment-hosted
Au, Sedex and Mississippi Valey Type Pb-Zn . In
addition indications have been found of
sediment-hosted and vein-type U mineralization
in the Sibolga region, widespread granitoidrelated Sn-W mineralization, and bedded Fe in
Aceh and Lampung (van Leeuwen and Crow,
2005; Subandrio, 2009). More than one
mineralization type may be present in the same
district. A good example is the Pungkut district
in North Sumatra where sediment-hosted Au,
epithermal and mesothermal vein Au-Ag,
porphyry Cu, and proximal and distal skarn
mineralization are present.
Figure 10 shows the distribution of mineral
occurrences, prospects and deposits found
todate in Sumatra.
The more significant
deposits are listed in Table 2 together with the
time of their discovery, resources, and, where
applicable, years of production. Of interest is
the recent emergence of northern Sumatra as a
significant copper and gold province that is
characterized by the presence of porphyrystyle, high-sulphidation epithermal Au, and
sediment-hosted Au mineralization. The recent
discoveries of porphyry Cu, high-sulphidation
Au-Cu, and manto-style mineralization in
southern Sumatra suggest that the metallogeny
of this part of the island is also more complex
than previously thought. Another interesting
feature is the close spatial association of the
majority of porphyry Cu-Au, epithermal Au-Ag
and sediment-hosted Au deposits with strands
and splays of the Sumatra Fault Zone. Todate no
comprehensive dating of mineralization events
in Sumatra has been carried out. Available data
(Crow and van Leeuwen, 2005; van Leeuwen
and Pieters, 2014) suggest that the Pliocene
was the main mineralizing period, particularly
for porphyry Cu-Au (e.g. Beutong, Upper
Tengkereng) and epithermal Au-Ag (e.g. Lebong
Donok, Martabe, Miwai).


17-18 November 2014, Palembang, South Sumatra, Indonesia

Figure 10. Map showing distribution of mineral occurrences, prospects and deposits in Sumatra.
Source: van Leeuwen and Pieters (2014)

Fe and base-metal/Au skarn deposits and

primary Sn-W mineralization appear to be
mostly associated with Late Mesozoic to Early
Tertiary granitoids. Pb-Zn mineralization in the
Dairi district is hosted in the Carboniferous?Early Permian Tapanuli Group. Pb-Zn
mineralization, in part Sedex style, has also
been found in Pre-Tertiary basement rocks in
south Aceh (Crow and van Leeuwen (2005).
Most discoverie made since 1967 can be
attributed to stream sediment sampling,
including BLEG, in some cases combined with
float observations. It is worth noting that
several deposits/mineralized districts produced
only low order geochemical anomalies, like
Tengkereng, Sihayo and Way Linggo, and that
persistence was one of the key success factor in

these discoveries. Parts of the Barisan

Mountains are covered by young, semiconsolidated volcanic products, which erode
easily, causing significant dilution of stream
sediments and hence suppressing geochemical
signatures from primary mineralization. Three
discoveries resulted primarily from outcrop or
float observations (i.e. Tangse, Miwah and Way
Linggo), while in one case literature research
was responsible for initially identifying the
target (Bukit Tembang). Geophysical methods
do not appear to have played a significant part
in any of the discoveries. Exploration of old
Dutch mine areas, like Salido, Gunung Arum,
Lebong Donok and Lebong Tandai, has (sofar)
not been very successful, although in some
cases non-technical factors like forestry issues
played a role.


17-18 November 2014, Palembang, South Sumatra, Indonesia

Table 2 : Significant mineral discoveries in Sumatra since ancient times

Resource (includes mined reserves)
Ancient times
Lebong Donok
Ancient times/
32 Mt @ 12.8 g/t Au, 71 g/t Ag
26 Mt @ 15.3 g/t Au, 163 g/t Ag
0.3 Mt @ 12.2 g/t Au, 87 g/t Ag
0.9 Mt @ 6.5 g/t Au, 265 g/t Ag
P Cu
500 Mt @ 0.47% Cu, 0.13 g/t Au
HS overprint
Bukit Tembang
11.3 Mt @ 2.3 g/t Au, 31.7 g/t Ag
104 Mt @ 0.94 g/t Au, 2.68 g/t Ag
7.5 Mt @ 3.4 g/t Au
2.7 Mt @ 1.16 g/t Au
Upper Tengkereng
P Cu
276 Mt @ 0.43%, 0.63 g/t Au
HS overprint
SH Zn/Pb
25.12 Mt @ 10.1% Zn, 6.0% Pb
16.9 Mt @ 2.6 g/t Au
Martabe District
2012207.6 Mt @ 1.2 g/t Au, 11 g/t Ag
Way Linggo
0.7 Mt @ 10.2 g/t Au, 135.6 g/t Ag
Talang Santo
20141.7 Mt @ 5.39 g/t Au, 16.77 g/t Ag
IS, LS, HS = intermediate, low, high sulfidation epithemal; P Cu = porphyry Cu-Au; SH = sediment-hosted;
Source: van Leeuwen and Pieters (2014)

Almost 50 years of modern exploration during

which a total of 42 COWs were signed has
produced only three small gold mines and one
medium-sized one plus a few small iron mines,
plus a few projects that are close to
development. This would appear to be a poor
result, especially when taking into account the
large size of Sumatra. However, both the time
frame and total of signed COWs are somewhat
misleading. As mentioned above, exploration
was characterized by short peaks separated by
longer periods of limited activity, a pattern also
observed in other parts of Indonesia.
number of COW areas were not explored at all
(e.g. Newmonts tenement in Bengkulu) or only
briefly or intermittently due to several nontechnical factors including forestry issues,
opposition from the local population, and
security reasons (e.g. the Aceh conflict between
the Indonesian government and the GAM
independence movement). This is best
illustrated by the case of PT Woyla Aceh

Minerals. Barrick withdrew from this promising

project in 1998 in the wake of the Busang
fiasco. Escalation of the Aceh conflict in the
ensuing 7 years precluded meaningful ground
activities. During this time protected forest
areas were declared over all prospective areas.
To make matters worse illegal miners started to
arrive in 2007 and two years later there was a
rapid inundation of illegal mining activities over
all quartz vein outcrops, which the Provincial
authorities were reluctant to stop despite
unconstrained land clearing and rampant
mercury contamination of streams.
Other reasons to believe that Sumatera remains
underexplored include: 1) surveys often focused
on a single deposit type or commodity; 2)
sampling and/or assaying methods used in the
past may not always have led to optimum
3) as mentioned above, several
significant deposits were almost missed
because their geochemical signature being very


17-18 November 2014, Palembang, South Sumatra, Indonesia

subtle; other deposits may have gone unnoticed

for similar reasons, especially if there were no
other indications like mineralized float; and 4)
large areas of Quaternary volcanics were
avoided as they were thought to be
unprospective, bu in fact these rocks may cover
significant Plio-Miocene mineralization.

In conclusion: there are plenty of reasons to

feel optimistic about the longer term future of
Sumatras mining industry, provided, of course,
that non-technical factors such as government
policies, community attitudes, land access, and
commodity market conditions will enable
sustainable exploration.

In the
past 25 years several previously
unknown deposit types have been discovered
and recently northern Sumatra has emerged as
an important Cu-Au province. This further
supports the notion that Sumatras mineral
potential has not yet been fully tested. As more
than one mineralization style may be present in
the same district (e.g. Sihayo-Pungkut district),
recognition of a single type, even if only weakly
developed, may help direct exploration for
potentially more significant mineralization of
other types. Another aid in area/target
selection, in particular for porphyry Cu-Au and
epithermal Au-Ag, may be identification of
centers of Pliocene magmatic activity along and
adjacent to the Sumatra Fault Zone. Deposits of
these types that are (largely) concealed beneath
Quarternary cover rocks may be identified by
using remote sensing and geophysical methods
combined with geological interpretion, and by
looking for geochemical leakage signatures in
the Quarternary rocks, and halo features
(geological and geochemical) in rocks exposed
in windows within, and at the margins of, the
Quartenary cover.


Pre-Tertiary basement rocks, which are widely

exposed in Sumatra, have potential for finding
sediment-hosted Pb-Zn and banded Fe
mineralization. New exploration methods may
also lead to further discoveries or more efficient
investigations of known deposits and prospects.
Similarly, development of new mining
techniques combined with higher commodity
prices may turn previously un- or sub-economic
deposits into profitable project. And lastly, new
infrastructure development may significantly
reduce exploration and development costs. A
case in point is the Beutong deposit, which at
the time of its discovery was highly inaccessible
and now is close to a highway.

Several collegues have provided data for this

review or helped in other ways, including Rod
Jones, Michael Thirnbeck, Bronto Sutopo, Peter
Pieters, and Okki Verdiansyah. I thank them
and also Iryanto Rompo, who assisted with the
preparation of the figures. The paper benefited
from careful reviews by Michael Crow and Brad
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