MAC/20: Mines and Communities

Public outcry over mining threat to Indonesian protected forests

Published by MAC on 2003-06-23

Public outcry over mining threat to Indonesian protected forests

Press release from JATAM & WALHI

June 23, 2003

Jakarta - Today, Indonesia's former environment minister, Mr. Sonny Keraf steps back into the area and joins the growing public outcry against last week's recommendation to grant 15 mining companies access to protected forest areas. The House of Representatives (DPR), through Commission III and VIII, are currently deciding whether to sacrifice 11.4 million hectares of protected forest areas to a mining industry that has aggressively lobbied the government to lower its own environmental standards.

"In my time as environment minister, I worked to achieve a level of environmental protection," say Sonny Keraf, the former Minister of Environment, who provided advice for Nabiel Makarim. "I would like to support my successors to increase these standards, not erode them, and Nabiel should join with the Forestry Ministry to be strong in the face of the Economic Ministry. I call on Parliamentarians to not change the function of protected forests to be developed for mining, and to value conservation."

Keraf joins forces with Indonesian Forum for the Environment (WALHI), Indonesian Mining Advocacy Network (JATAM), WWF Indonesia, Pelangi Foundation, Indonesian Biodiversity Foundation (KEHATI), Working Group on Agrarian Reform and Natural Resource Management (POKJA PA-PSDA), Forest Watch Indonesia, Community Mining Advocacy Team (TATR), Indonesian Centre for Environmental Law (ICEL), Coastal and Marine Network (JARING PELA), and the Mineral Policy Institute (MPI).

Indonesia's forests are under attack, as the mining industry contributes to rapid deforestation that threatens biodiversity, water catchment areas and the livelihoods of communities. Flooding and landslides kill hundreds and cost billions of Rupiah, and the problem of toxic mine waste disposal remains for future generations. Forestry Act 41/1999 bans open-pit mining in protected areas, precisely to preserve these hydrological and biodiversity functions.

"Parliamentarians, who are facing an election next year, have an opportunity to demonstrate their commitment to the right to a healthy environment and a future safe from the threat of devastation associated with mining," says Longgena Ginting, Executive Director of WALHI. "The government needs to stand up and protect the conservation areas of its own people and not engage in a short sighted scramble for foreign investment."

"The economic value of healthy ecosystem functions, including flood prevention and community income from sustainable forest products far outweighs the short term income from mining royalties", says Togu Manurung of Forest Watch Indonesia.

Some Indonesian government ministers have expressed concern regarding the threat by foreign mining companies to seek international arbitration, if not granted exemptions to Forestry Act 41/1999. Members of parliamentary environment committee VIII have complained of international pressure to allow mining to continue in protected forest areas, or lose all foreign investment. At the behest of mining companies BHP-Billiton, Placer Dome, Rio Tinto and Newcrest, Australian Embassy officials have on nine occasions pressed Indonesian government ministers, and Parliamentarians to relax their environment standards.

Media Contact: Nur Hidayati, WALHI +62-812-997-2642

The following are 15 Mining companies that are seeking access to protected forest areas, and their country of origin:

1. PT Freeport Indonesia Papua (Freeport McMoran, Rio Tinto, USA/Australia/UK)
2. PT Newmont Nusa Tenggara (Newmont, US)
3. PT International Nickel Indonesia Tbk (Inco, Canada)
4. PT Indominco Mandiri
5. PT Arutmin Indonesia
6. PT Aneka Tambang Tbk
7. PT Karimun Granite
8. PT Nusa Halmahera Minerals Maluku (Newcrest, Australia)
9. PT Weda Bay Nickel (Canada)
10. PT Gag Nickel (BHP-Billiton, Australia /UK)
11. PT Citra Palu Minerals (Rio Tinto / Newcrest, Australia /UK)
12. PT Natarang Mining Lampung (MM Gold, Australia)
13. PT Meares Soputan Mining (Australia)
14. PT Nabire Bakti Mining (US/Australia)
15. PT Meratus Sumber (Placer, Canada)

The following action alert was initiated by the Indonesian Mining Advocacy Network (JATAM). Please send emails/faxes/letters today, to Indonesian officials and also to the embassies of countries that are lobbying on behalf of the multinational mining companies. Send copies to JATAM (see contact info below).


Save Indonesia's Protected Forest Areas from Mining

June 2003

* Deforestation in Indonesia has reached 2.4 million hectares (1.2%) per year or approximately 10 acres of rainforest a minute.

* Mining multinational companies and foreign governments are lobbying the Indonesian government to open up protected forest areas, national parks and other protected areas for mining while local communities and environmental justice groups are demanding that the protected forest areas remain intact and free from mining.

* The Indonesian government will decide at the end of June 2003….

Deforestation in Indonesia is occurring at an alarming rate. Allocated protected forest areas, national parks and other protected areas are now being threatened by mining activities. The government of Indonesia has issued several laws that aim to protect forests and water catchments, including Forestry Act No. 41/1999, which prohibits open-pit mining in protected forest areas. However, the government is also desperate for foreign investment to bolster a failing economy, and is under severe pressure from the mining industry and foreign governments to override this environment protection law and grant mining permits. Foreign companies and their governments must respect Indonesia's communities, forests and the laws designed to protect them.

The Indonesian government will decide on the fate of 22 mining companies wanting to mine in protected forest areas by the end of June 2003. The Department of Forestry has indicated it may bow to pressure and allow 15 of the 22 mining operations to proceed in protected forest areas. Mining companies who are pushing to mine in protected areas include US-owned Newmont and Freeport, Australian/UK mining companies BHP-Billiton, Rio Tinto and Newcrest, and Canadian companies Placer Dome, Inco and Weda Bay Nickel.

Currently, mining is encroaching on 11.4 million hectares of forest in Indonesia. These areas under threat of mining include 8.68 million hectares of protected forests and 2.8 million hectares of conservation areas.

Forest conservation, biodiversity preservation and prevention of devastating floods in Indonesia rely heavily on the protected forest and conservation area system. The size of the protected areas in Indonesia is a relatively small 55.2 million hectares with 31.9 million hectares designated as protected forests and the remaining area as conservation areas. All of these areas have been damaged in some way, from illegal logging, forest fires, palm oil tree plantations, and other industrial uses including mining

Indonesian protected forest areas are few but are sites of rich biodiversity with profuse endemic flora and fauna species, as well as the homelands of indigenous communities. On the other hand, the mining industry has a large area of operation (based on the licenses granted), covering 66.891.496 ha (more than 35% of Indonesia’s land area) in 2001. Not satisfied, the mining industry has been relentlessly lobbying the government to open up new protected areas for mining. Foreign governments are also lobbying on behalf of their multinational mining company giants. BHP Billiton, Newcrest, Placer Dome, and Rio Tinto specifically requested, and received, lobbying assistance from the Australian Embassy in Indonesia on the matter of mining in protected areas. Australian embassy officials on nine occasions pressed Indonesian government Ministers and officials to drop the ban on mining in protected areas.

Twenty-two mining companies have been granted mining leases, and some have spent money on exploration, now claiming they therefore have a right to dig open-cut pits in protected areas. However, all Indonesian mining contracts state that the company must obey Indonesian statutes and regulations including environmental protection laws. These regulations and statutes may change from time to time to adjust to the needs of the environment and social condition for the benefit of the Indonesian people. Therefore there’s no valid argument not to obey Forestry Act No.41/1999 and other forestry regulations. Instead of obeying the law, those companies have threatened Indonesian government officials with lawsuits if they do not permit them to begin open-cut mining operations.

Mining in Indonesia has left a legacy of environmental and social impacts. Mining multinationals like Newmont, Aurora Gold and Rio Tinto are currently shutting down some of their Indonesian mines, leaving behind open pits, lands unable to be reclaimed, acid mine drainage, and other environmental and social nightmares. Local people and environment groups are angry for good reason.

Indonesia has committed to the global conservation of protected areas and natural biodiversities by ratifying the “Convention on Biological Diversity” (CBD) and agreed to the “Statement of Forest Principles”. It is part of the United Nations Forest Forum (UNFF). Indonesian environment groups therefore insist that Indonesia must honour and implement the international agreements it has entered into. Meanwhile, they demand that other countries respect laws made to conserve and protect Indonesia’s environment.

How you can help

Support the coalition of Indonesian organizations and communities by urging government officials to keep Indonesia’s protected forest areas off-limits to mining. Send emails, faxes or letters!

* Tell them you support a coalition of Indonesian organizations that opposes opening Indonesia’s protected forest areas to mining and that you are disappointed in the granting of mining permits to 15 mining companies.

* Congratulate them for ratifying the Convention on Biological Diversity and establishing protected areas.

* Urge them to maintain Indonesia’s laws that prohibit mining in protected forest areas, namely Act No. 41/1999, in order to protect globally significant biological diversity, and prevent toxic contamination of water and agricultural lands from destruction caused by open-pit mining.

Addresses:

President of Republic of Indonesia, Megawati Soekarnoputri
Istana Merdeka Jakarta, Jl. Veteran 16, Jakarta, Indonesia
Telephone: (+62 21) 3845001 Pes. 190,191
Fax: (+62 21) 345 7782
E-mail: presiden@ri.go.id
(don’t add a what seems to be a missing ‘t’!)

Minister of Forestry
Dr. Ir. M. Prakosa
Jl. Gatot Subroto
South Jakarta, Indonesia
Telephone: (+62 21) 5730216, 57303780
Fax: (+62 21) 5700226
Email for the Secretary General at the Ministry of Forestry:
Email: sekjen@dephut.cbn.net.id

Members of Indonesian House of Representatives Committees III and VIII
Telephone: (+62 21) 5715-530
Fax: (+62 21) 5715-532
Email: humas-dpr@dpr.go.id

Also, please write to Australian, American, British and Canadian embassies in Jakarta asking them to respect and support Indonesia’s ban on mining in protected areas, instead of selfishly supporting their multinational mining companies’ financial interests.

* Tell them you support a coalition of Indonesian organizations that opposes opening Indonesia’s protected forest areas to mining.
* Tell them their embassies and companies should not pressure the Indonesian government to change its laws to permit mining in protected forest and conservation areas. These governments and companies should honor Indonesia’s ratification of the Convention on Biological Diversity, and respect Indonesia’s protected areas.

Australian Embassy in Jakarta, Indonesia
Attn: Mr. David Ritchie,
Ambassador to Indonesia
Jl. H.R. Rasuna Said Kav. C15-16, Kuningan,
Jakarta Selatan, Indonesia 12940
Tel: (+62 21) 2550 5555
Fax: (+62 21) 522 7101
E-mail: public-affairs-jakt@dfat.gov.au

British Embassy in Jakarta, Indonesia
Attn: Mr. Richard Gozney,
Ambassador to Indonesia
British Consulate General
Deutsche Bank Building 19th floor
Jl Imam Bonjol 80
Jakarta 10310
Tel: (+62 21) 390 7484 (4 lines)
Fax: (+62 21) 316 0858
E-mail: britemb@attglobal.net

Canadian Embassy in Jakarta, Indonesia
Attn: Mr. Ferry de Kerckhove,
Ambassador to Indonesia
World Trade Center 6th Floor
Jl. Jend. Sudirman Kav 29-31
Jakarta, Indonesia 12920
Tel: (+62 21) 2550-7800
Fax: (+62 21) 2550-7811
Email: canadianembassy.jkrta@dfait-maec.gc.ca

U.S. Embassy in Jakarta, Indonesia
Attn: Ralph Boyce,
US Ambassador to Indonesia
Jl. Medan Merdeka Selatan 4-5,
Jakarta, Indonesia 10110
Phone (+62 21) 3435-9000
Fax: (+62 21) 385-7189

PLEASE SEND A COPY OF YOUR LETTERS TO: tracy@jatam.org

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