Misperception on protected forests and miningPublished by MAC on 2003-07-30
Misperception on protected forests and mining
30 July 2003
The Jakarta Post
P.L. Coutrier, Executive Director Indonesia Mining Association
A sad misperception with far reaching impacts on the future of the Eastern Part of Indonesia (KTI) is now in progress under the pretext of protecting the forestry area. What started this all?
Mining companies never intentionally operate in protected forests. The fact is that they obtain official Contract of Works (CoW) from the Indonesian government prior to 1999, which at that time was not in a protected forest. After 1999 with the new government and euphoria of democracy and reforms some parts of these CoWs concessions were declared protected forest areas. It means that some parts of the CoW now has a protected forest within its area.
The problem becomes a political dilemma that the present government should resolve because it is the present forestry officials who declare some of the mining area to be new forest conservation areas. This is in contradiction with the previous decision of the government.
The reclassification of the status of partial parts of mine concession areas into protected forests have affected 22 companies, which mostly consist of producing as well as exploration companies. The companies have been forced to suspend their projects because under the new forestry law, open-pit mining operations are prohibited.
As such, if they are allowed to continue, they will not use any additional land or forest outside their existing mining area. So there is no such thing as additional forestry area to be destroyed by the mining companies.
There will be no threat to any biodiversity protected area. Their total concession area covers only 2.5 million hectares, which will gradually shrink because of the relinquishment principle in exploration.
Each mining area will always be reduced to focus on the mineral bearing deposits only. In this area the newly declared protected forests cover a total of maximum 600,000 hectares. It can therefore never destroy 11.4 million hectares of conservation forest as claimed by some groups opposing the government's intention to develop the area.
Using this wrong figure and with wrong perception some so called ex-prominent individuals attack the government wrongly. In general their arguments were off target since they do not master the real problem of mining and the forestry. They also did not bother to check on the difference between exploration and production.
They wrongly declare that all the mining areas, including exploration areas, will become a big hole like an open-pit mine. A good intellectual should understand that in the exploration stage the area will practically not change and the environment will remain practically the same.
Prior to any production the mining company is obliged to make an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA or AMDAL) with a full monitoring and mitigation plans. The AMDAL will also contain the reclamation plan and mine closure plan. Engineering techniques are available to manage the water shed to avoid detrimental effects from erosion as this is the priority for protection forest as declared by the forestry department.
In fact the requirement for protection forests as set forth by the forestry department is only based on the slope of the land, the intensity of rainfall and the permeability of the soil.
This can be handled safely by the prevailing good mining practice. During mine closure it is possible to turn the mine into a protection forest. So the mining industry is not sacrificing any forest. Indeed some areas where mining has terminated reclamation and reforestation has been carried out successfully. An example is the Paringin coal field in South Kalimantan. So there is no reason to blow up the matter above unless there is a secret agenda against the government who wants to develop KTI.
Oddly enough the anti-mining organizations are only aiming at the legal and law abiding companies, especially foreign direct investments companies.
This put them at the point of accusation that they may have a hidden agenda behind all this attack on the present government is still facing a critical economy and still needs a lot of investment.
They have no eyes and have no steam to fight illegal logging, which destroys the forest. They also keep silent on illegal mining that pollutes the adjacent waters with mercury in North Sulawesi, Central Kalimantan and South Kalimantan.
Today's hot topic is the news that the Indonesian government will release the 22 companies to continue operations since their operations have a significant impact on the regional economy and opportunity for the local people to enjoy the multiplier effect.
The total investment of the 22 companies are about US$12 billion. The release will be based on a revaluation of each company of its economic value to the region (contribution and multiplier effect), the size of investment, its social impacts and its environmental management performance.
This has become part of the criteria used by the parliamentary group who visited some of the mines. Even after the release of these 22 companies, it does not mean that this will become a free permit to develop mining in protection forest. The new mining investors will face a tighter arrangement on protection forest following the prevailing rule.