To prevent further environmental damage, the government has said it would revoke the licenses of mining firms operating in Kalimantan that do not have environmental impact analysis documents (Amdal).
The State Environment Ministry said it would use its new authority, as stated in the 2009 Environmental Law, which gives the ministry the authority to revoke business permits.
“We have sent a fact-finding team to South Kalimantan to check whether coal mining firms have secured Amdal,” the ministry’s deputy for spatial planning, Hermien Rosita, said Monday.
“The team will also verify if mining firms have complied with the Amdal papers.”
She said the office also planned to send another team to East Kalimantan to assess the coal mining companies operating in the area.
The enforcement of Amdal will help protect ailing environmental conditions across Kalimantan, she said.
“We have long been informed of the poor environmental management of several mining firms in Kalimantan,” Hermien said.
However, she said, as the authority to issue Amdal had been designated to local administrations, the ministry’s authority to intervene had been restricted.
Article 77 of the new environmental law stipulates the environment minister can impose administrative sanctions on business owners and their activities if local administrations intentionally fail to deal with serious environmental violations.
Article 111 stipulates that officials who issue environmental permits without Amdal will be subject to a maximum three years in jail and/or a Rp 3 billion fine.
Kalimantan, the country’s richest province for coal deposits, has long been under pressure to better regulate huge and overlapping licenses awarded to companies to exploit coal.
Nine regents in South Kalimantan province for example, have granted principal permits to 229 mining companies allowing them to mine deposits of coal in 200,000 hectares of the Meratus protected forest.
East Kalimantan only has 19.8 million hectares of land, but regional chiefs have granted overlapping permits, mainly to mining and plantation firms in about 21.7 million hectares.
Activists have said that selling business permits to dig the natural resources had been a common practice to increase the local budget.
The government itself admitted that many companies had no Amdal documents before commencing operation.
The Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi) said that many existing Amdal documents were made through a “copy and paste” system without discussion with local communities about the projects.
Amdal papers are basic documents to determine whether business activities are environmentally feasible in a particular area.
The documents are required for the issuance of business permits. Since the implementation of regional autonomy, local administrations have been authorized to manage natural resources in their area.
A study from the state environment minister showed that only a quarter of the country’s 460 municipal and regency administrations have set up Amdal commissions to issue the document.