Thu, 19 Jun 2003

Mining in protected forests under fire

Evi Mariani and Rendi Witular, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

A green activist blasted the government's and the House of Representatives' plan to allow 15 mining companies to resume their operations in protected-forest areas, saying that several NGOs were ready to file a lawsuit against the government and the House over the plan.

"Should a presidential decree be issued, allowing the operations to proceed, my organization, along with dozens of other environmental non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are ready to file a lawsuit," said Chalid Muhammad, national coordinator of Network for Mining Advocacy (Jatam).

"Over the past three months, we have raised support (against the plan) of about 1,000 people," he added.

He said that the planned decree would violate Law No. 41/1999 on forestry, which bans open-cast mining in protected forests.

"If the companies resume operations, the environmental and social costs Indonesia will have to pay are much higher than the gains from those companies, as environmental damage is irreparable," said Chalid.

He listed the potential negative impacts of the planned decree: Changes in the micro-climate, decreased biodiversity, shrinking of water catchment areas and heightened possibilities of natural disasters.

"There will also be potential horizontal conflicts between the surrounding communities and the companies," he said.

Conflicts of interest between mining companies and those fighting for sustainable development and the environment have been the subjects of heated discussions at the House and several ministries for the past few months.

Law No. 41/1999 has affected the operations of many mining companies, as their mining sites were later designated as protected forest areas. The mining companies, which had made huge investments, protested the law and subsequent decisions as they ran contrary to the contracts they had signed with the government.

Havizi Kurnain, a member of House Commission III for forestry and agriculture, told The Jakarta Post on Wednesday that the plan was waiting for approval from the House.

"Without our approval, the decree cannot be issued. We will hold meetings to discuss the issue this week, or next week," he added.

Earlier this week, a ministerial meeting at the office of the Coordinating Minister for Economic Affairs reportedly approved the plan to allow 15 mining companies to resume operating in protected-forest areas.

Mining companies to resume operations in protected forests

Company concessions in protected forests (ha) 1. Freeport Indonesia 203,740 2. Nabire Bakti Mining 201,550 3. Meratus Sumber Mas 37,590 4. Newmont Nusa Tenggara 65,200 5. Karimun Granite 4,090 6. International Nickel Indonesia 219,330 7. Natarang Mining 49,740 8. Citra Palu Minerals 138,020 9. Nusa Halmahera Minerals 366,610 10. Weda Bay Nikel 90,020 11. Gag Nickel 6,060 12. Indominco Mandiri 6,880 13. Meares Soputan Mining not available 14. Arutmin Indonesia not available 15. Aneka Tambang not available

Source: Kompas and Forestry Planning Agency at the Ministry of Forestry