MAC: 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).

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