JAKARTA A volcano that started spewing hot mud
in Indonesia two years ago displacing more than 50,000 people
was triggered by tectonic activity, experts working for the
energy firm blamed by some for the disaster said on Thursday.
The comments contrast with the view of an international
team of experts who said on Monday that drilling for a gas
exploration well, and not an earthquake, set off the volcano in
A geologist and drilling expert working for oil and gas
firm Lapindo Brantas said that the international team, led by
Richard Davies of Britain's Durham University, had based their
findings on the wrong data and assumptions.
"Experts opinion, Davies and others, that concluded that
the burst came from the drilling well is based on a study that
used the wrong data and assumption," Edy Sutriono, drilling
expert at Lapindo, told a news conference.
The international team had said records kept by Lapindo
during the drilling of the gas exploration well called
Banjar-Panji-1 showed an underground blowout that could have
triggered the disaster.
But Bambang Istadi, a geologist at Lapindo, said tectonic
activity had caused an old escarpment to crack and become the
channel for the mud to flow.
The company and some experts have argued that the mud flow
was caused by a 6.3 magnitude earthquake in Yogyakarta and its
aftershocks that happened two days before the eruption.
That quake, centred 160 miles from the mud volcano, killed
6,000 people and left 1.5 million homeless.
Richard Davies told Reuters on Thursday that the well was
being drilled next to a mud volcano at the same time it
The hot noxious mud began spewing near the gas exploration
site in Sidoarjo, in East Java, on May 29.
"I mean, it's just I'm sorry, there's just too much
evidence now to propose that this isn't due to the well," he
added, noting there would be a public debate with Lapindo
experts on the issue in late October this year in Cape Town,
The mud, which is flowing at a rate of more than 100,000
cubic metres a day, has displaced more than 50,000 people and
covered more than 2.5 square miles.
A mud volcano is usually a naturally occurring phenomenon
created when a mix of mud, water and gas forms underground and
is forced to the surface. There are a few thousand on earth.
PT Energi Mega Persada indirectly controls Lapindo, which
holds a 50 percent stake in the Brantas block where the mud
originated. PT Medco Energi International Tbk holds a 32
percent stake and Australia-based Santos Ltd the rest.
The situation has also become a major embarrassment for the
government since Energi is owned by the Bakrie Group,
controlled by the family of chief social welfare minister,
Indonesia's government has ordered Lapindo to pay 3.8
trillion rupiah ($408.1 million) in compensation to the victims
and to cover the damage.
(Editing by Ed Davies)