Mining for trouble

Word on the street is that a certain international mining company, that has already been in big trouble with the Indonesian Government over the past two years, is about to get into trouble again – this time its credibility would be shot without repair.

A few months ago, in a desperate effort to shore up its credibility and bring in some brains, for a change, to manage its operations in Indonesia, the mining company hired a man that is considered one of the best, most savvy Indonesian executives in the industry.

That relationship has apparently turned sour and Unspun’s sources say that an announcement is imminent soon of the paeting of the ways.

One insider says both sides were unimpressed by each other, but the truth is probably that there are some companies so chronically ill that no one, not even the brightest talents can help it.

Once this Indonesian executive announces his resignation Unspun expects that the company reputation, already tarnished, will loose whatever lustre it has. Ah well, as they say, it is not all gold that glisters.

11 thoughts on “Mining for trouble

  1. hey bro, how are the haze in Jakarta? at least you have forests to burn; here the hills are cut along with the trees, and there’s nothing to catch fire except our (burning) desire to send some politicians to burn in hell.

    anyway, your latest posting on mining interests me. it does not have anything to do with tenaga nasional or its partners in indonesia, does it?

    by the way, if every indonesian worker in malaysia plants the seed of a tree they bring in from their daerah and negeri, we’ll be nicely forested again in some years. then, when the wind blows in java’s direction, we will export some haze because we’ll have trees to burn!

    u take care, bro.


  2. Rockybru: Yo bro. Haze in Jakarta, what haze? One of the reasons why Indonesian politicians are so complacent about the haze is that while the smoke affects Malaysia, Singapore and parts of Kalimantan, it hardly affects the Big Durian down here.

    So if you guys in malaysia want anything done in Jakarta you virtually have to come down and demo the DPR here. You can do what the locals do and rent a crowd (I believe the going rate is Rp50,000 per day plus food) and smoke them out. Short of that I’m afraid protestations are a long distance away.

    On the mining company: No it has nothingto do with coal but with precious metals. Stay cool and find your wway carefully in the haze bro.


  3. thanks bro, appreciate it.
    personally, i think the haze is here as a message to Malaysians to not take Mama Nature for granted. but we are so thick-skulled we’ll need a thicker haze over a longer period if the message is to be seen! i live in a new suburb, between kuala lumpur and the admin capital putrajaya, which shouldn’t be called a suburb because it’s more brown than green. we were flanked by hills, not big but still hills, just a year ago; today, those hills are just a memory.
    should have taken pics of those hills. at least i can tell the kids when they grow up what hills looked like!


  4. I was ‘impressed’ by your analysis regarding “a
    certain international mining company”, which I
    believed was one of your clients. I recall a piece
    that you wrote, published in the Jakarta Post about
    this international mining company more than a year
    ago, all was very positive. I also know that several
    international journalists, whom I also know, said that
    when you were contracted by this international mining
    company, you were busy talking to them trying to
    convince them about all the good things about your
    client. As a PR consultant, that I believe many people
    know you are, it’s only natural to advocate the public
    about the positives of your clients.

    But now the tone of your ‘advocacy’ has changed. If I
    may borrow your words, “word on the street” is that
    “the relationship between you and the client went
    sour”, and that “one insider says you and your client
    were unimpressed by each other” and that your parting
    ways left some hard feelings on your part? There’s one
    ethic that I believe all GOOD consultants subscribe
    to: never bathmouth anyone, including your former
    clients. You seem to disagree with that code of ethic.
    Was it because “your heart was so chronically ill” you
    couldn’t make good judgements anymore?

    “Ah well, as they say, not all PR consultants know how
    to maintain their own reputation”.


  5. Fen: Thanks for your comments. I think they raise important points about blogging, PR and ethics so I shall address them one by one. The Jakarta Post article you mentioned is actually in this blog entitled Defence Against the Dark Arts. If you read the text carefully you will realize that much of what I said about Newmont was not, by your definition, “positive” in that article.
    I, In fact criticised them for not responding properly and for managing their image very badly in the face of accusations from the NGOs. I have been consistent in maintaining that stance since.
    I was later appointed by Newmont, during which I spoke to some of the international journalists you know. That part is correct. But the part of me trying to convince them “all the good things about [my] client” is inaccurate. I was hired to put their case to the public that they did not pollute Buyat Bay. I have seen the evidence and I firmly believe that they did not pollute Buyat Bay. My communications to the journalists were to that end. In fact much of my communications to the journalists were that Newmont should be judged by the evidence and the facts, not by their behavior and paucity in communications skills.
    Many people have the wrong notion of how PR works. PR works well when you can communicate with credibility. That means not trying to paint your picture of a perfect client to journalists, who can usually smell bullshit a mile away. The best option is to admit their weaknesses and address the issues head on. Anything less would be spin doctoring and doing a disservice to their client because you’d be making their egos feel good while getting them nada credibility.
    Good PR does not work that way. Good PR is about honest self disclosure and wanting to establish a dialogue with your stakeholders even though they make be skeptical.
    Which brings us to blogging and the seemingly conflict you perceive with my as a consultant. I agonized over whether to blog about clients or to leave them be as I knew something like your accusations would crop up sooner or later. It actually puts me in a spot: If I say good things about present and former clients, or say bad things, then either way my motives and ethics can be questioned. Also I struggled with the question of if I blogged about clients, does there have to be a quarantine period after which anything goes. I don’t know if there is any right answer out there. If someone does, please advice me.

    Finally I had to make a decision and that was to “separate” myself into two personas – one a PR consultant and one, Unspun, a blogger. I would not write about present clients unless I have informed them and they had no objections. But where past clients are concerned I would express my opinions so long as it does not compromise the terms of the non-disclosure agreement usually signed between clients and consultants. I would also disclose my present or former association with them. You will see, for instance, such a disclosure in the “Dark Arts” posting.

    I also debated whether to blog under my own name or anonymously. When I started this blog and initially I blogged anonymously. But I thought this lacked credibility so I have opted for full disclosure of my identity. You can’t hide in the net anyway and anyone that thinks they can blog safely without anyone discovering their identity are just kidding themselves.

    I believe that blogging is the way to go in communications, precisely because so many companies get it wrong about their traditional PR. The traditional way of thinking about PR is portray your client as perfect. That is hogwash. No company is perfect it has contradictions, disagreements, makes mistakes and, if they are good companies, acknowledge their mistakes, learn from them and become better companies. Often the whistleblowers of these mistakes are a company’s staunchest critics.The day of command-and-control communications is fast dying. This is the age of naked conversations.

    In Newmont’s case they may be lousy in communications (as their CEO Murdy admitted to journalists in a visit to Indonesia some time ago) but they certainly did not pollute Buyat Bay. I see no ethical breach pointing that out as most of it is public information and I’ve said so even before we had any association. As to whether it is ethical for me to blog about former clients, I’ll leave the readers to decide. I’ve written several posts touching on Newmont for people to make up their minds on the ethics of it.

    As motives are impossible to prove one way or ther other except with a track record, I’ll not bother and let readers decide for themselves from my previous posts. I think the posts provide sufficent information, over an extended time period, for some well-informed decisions to be made. Some might even argue that my continual insistence that they may be bad communicators but are certainly not polluters may actually do Newmont a favor. What would my motives be then?

    This blog is called Unspun because I’ve decided to blog and try to unspin some of the miscommunications, spin doctioring and hocus pocus out there. I think there is a lot of bad PR and a lot of bad journalism out there that confuses frather than enlightens the reader. Whether I’ve added to the confusion or provided an alternative viewpoint on some subjects and issues are up to the readers in the blogosphere to decide. So I’d be interested to hear what others have to say.


  6. Dear Unspun,
    I totally agree with your statement that there is a lot of bad PR and a lot of bad journalism out there that confuses rather than enlightens the reader, and I respect your effort to try to unspin some of the miscommunications, spin doctoring and hocus pocus out there.
    However, it did came a bit odd to me that in your initial writing you did not reveal the company’s identity, rather you reffered it as “a certain international mining company”, which I think is contrary to your noble cause of laying out the bare facts.

    I also find that the initial article was to an extent a bit gossipy, especially when you make comments such as “…but the truth is probably that there are some companies so chronically ill that no one, not even the brightest talents can help it”. These kind of comments surely does not enlighten the readers with substantiated facts, and sounds a bit like spinning….

    Ah well…..


  7. Budiman: What is odd, to me, is your equation of a gossipy tone with spinning. Surely a PR practitioner like you would know the definition of spinning, which is to try to pass off on an audience something that is quite patently untrue or unsubstantiable.

    The “chronically ill” quote you cited is an opinion and that is what goes into blogs like this. The author’s opinion. If you think that sounds gossipy then you’re entitled to your opinion on it. But don’t look down on gossip. A wise man once said that it, too, is a form of prophecy. You no doubt know that the majority of business crises are caused by denial, which results in a systemic failure of companies to respond appropriately to attacks. One needs to question why a company with vast resources at its disposal cannot utilise the expertise and talents it can buy to dig itself out of a hole.

    As to me not fulfilling my “noble” aims of enlightenment, I think you are seeking to put me on too high a pedestal that I dare not aspire to. I blog for the heck of it, because I am sick of so much spin around and because so many PR consultants do not have the courage to advise their clients about the truth which is often the last thing the clients want to hear. I wonder if you do tell some of your clients the truth if you felt that it would not go down well with them in theri state of denial.

    Which brings us to you. Your IP address suggests you work for a PR consultancy that is still under retainer by Newmont. Yet you use a yahoo domain address. Why is this so? Are you posting this comment as an individual? Or are you posting it on instructions from your client? I can’t be bothered either way but I think you owe some disclosure to the readers of this blog.


  8. Hi Ong,
    Budiman is my code name for accessing porn sites 🙂 ..and if I can recall correctly, you once said to me “PR consultants are like hookers, we bend over whenever the client wants to f**k us”.. or was it the other way around ??

    Anyway, let me express my views on your information/opinion on your recent posting. My main concern stems from the fact that you didn’t cover both sides of the coin , and that the way you presented the story is quite cynical and somewhat misleading. But again as you said, it’s is all fair game in blogs like this… which brings me back to the question whether this kind of information serves the purpose of enlightenment .

    So my friend , let’s put this to bed and agree to disagree….

    Hope to see you in the next diving trip.. that is, if I don’t cancel again.. ha ha ha..


    Isma Natanegara
    Inke Maris & Associates


  9. Budiman/Isma: Nakal ya 🙂

    The quote out of context seems a curious way to forward your arguments. if I didn’t know better I would say its argument by diversion.

    Can totally appreciate your concern to ensure that both sides of the coin are covered. Please enlighten us on the other side. This blog is unmoderated and you’re free to express yourself.

    So we’ll hear from you if you would like to articulate your client’s position. If not, next diving trip aja.


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