MAC: Mines and Communities

Granite Mining Threatens Riau Protected Forest

Published by MAC on 2007-05-04

Granite Mining Threatens Riau Protected Forest

The Jakarta Post

4th May 2007

The protected forest on the slopes of Jantan and Betina mountains in Karimun regency, Riau Islands province, has been severely damaged, allegedly by mining in the area. A large area is now bare of plant life, and a large crater filled with deep blue water has developed. Activities at the Singapore-owned granite mine continue amid accusations of environmental destruction in the 19.7-hectare forest reserve.

The arrival of an investigative team including Riau Islands Police, staff from the Environment Ministry and environmental experts from the Bogor Institute of Agriculture earlier this week failed to draw the attention of workers.

As if unaware of the situation, a number of employees of the PT Karimun Granite company were seen marking the cliff face with bold letters, coordinate points for future blasting.

Basuki Waasis of the IPB told The Jakarta Post at the site that the forest conversion work carried out by the company had caused severe and irreparable damage to the environment and surrounding ecosystem.

"Just look at the condition of the soil and trees around that have died, and the rocks smashed arbitrarily. The quarry does not abide by eco-friendly procedures. The company has encroached into the protected forest, which has caused plants to die. The use of heavy machinery has damaged the ecosystem inside the forest," said Basuki.

The Environment Ministry and the Riau Islands Police have asked the team to assess the damage to done to forests.

"I have taken the required samples, such as soil and dead tree branches, and will analyze them," said Basuki.

Basuki also touched on the issue of the large crater caused by granite quarrying activities, the depth of which could have an adverse impact on the environment there. According to company data, the depth of the crater is around 80 meters below sea level, well beyond the tolerable limit of only 30 meters.

PT Karimun Granite has been working in the area since 1971. The company has changed management many times but it is still owned by the city-state. It owns a concession area of 2,761 ha, 1,000 ha of which is conservation forest. It has only used 165 ha since it began operations.

Approval from the Forestry Ministry is needed to exploit areas included in the preserved forest and carried various levels of compensation. Riau Islands Police chief of detectives Sr. Comr. Basaria Panjaitan said the company had exploited 19.7 ha of the forest without approval from the Forestry Ministry.

"The company has not obtained a permit from the ministry, so we arrested its bosses," said Basaria.

The Riau Islands Police have held managing director Huang He and operational director Peter Fock, both Singaporean nationals. They also detained general manager Arif Rahman and operational manager Toni Sopiandi on April 27. The four are liable to face a 10-year prison sentence and fines of Rp 5 billion for violating the 1999 Forestry Law.

However, police released Huang He and Peter Fock on April 28 after the men complained of skin rashes. They are being treated at the exclusive Awal Bross hospital in Batam.

According to operations manager Toni Sopiandi, the company produces around 5 million tons of granite annually, virtually all of which is shipped to Singapore, while only 5 percent of it is used to meet local demand, meaning that almost 180 million tons have been shipped to Singapore since it started operating 36 years ago.

"However, exports have been temporarily stopped for the past two months. Quarrying is still being carried out, but not consignments, due to the current dispute over granite exports," said Toni.

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