MAC: Mines and Communities

Indonesia's concession areas exceed the country's total area

Published by MAC on 2002-09-28

Indonesia's concession areas exceed the country's total area

Jakarta Post, September 28, 2002

By Muninggar Sri Saraswati and Musthofid

Inconsistent and overlapping legislation on forest exploitation has resulted in the total area of forest and mining concessions, of around 200 million hectares, exceeding Indonesia's total land area of 191 million hectares, according to a non-governmental organization (NGO). "Indonesia's total land area is only 191 million hectares, with another 330 million hectares of maritime zone," said the Mining Advocacy Network (Jatam). The forest and mining concession areas also exceed Indonesia's total remaining forest area of 104 million hectares, Jatam said in a recent report.

Mining projects on 84 million hectares of land have taken the largest portion of the country's land, followed by forest concessions (HPH) on some 54 million hectares of land. "It reflects an overlap in authority and lack of coordination between institutions due to inconsistent legislation on forest management," said Harry Alexander of the Natural Resources Law Institute (IHSA). As a result, the country's forests are managed by several institutions, including the forestry ministry and the energy and mineral resources ministry, as well as regional administrations. Each institution has the authority to issue concession rights and exploit the country's forests, as stipulated in their respective laws.

Environmental observer Longgena Ginting and forest expert Togu Manurung, meanwhile, blamed the plethora of mining operations on loose control by the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources. "Projects permits are generously handed out to two or three companies for the same area," Longgena of the Indonesian Forum for the Environment (WALHI) said, adding that it was easy for companies to obtain a mining permit. Meanwhile, Togu blamed the forestry ministry for the uncontrolled exploitation of Indonesia's forests. "The forestry ministry appears to have failed to draw a clear line between conservation areas and those allocated for commercial exploitation," Togu said.

To make things worse, Harry said, both forest and mining concessions were allowed to operate on either the protected or conserved forests. That policy explains why the total area allocated for forests concessions is way above the actual, total forested area. "Consequently, it should not come as a surprise if a mining or logging operation occurs in a protected forest," he said. Harry warned that Indonesia's forests would vanish if each institution continued to issue and enforce its own regulations without taking into account the impact on ecology. Although the forestry ministry claims there are some 104 million hectares of forest remaining, Indonesia is believed to have only 60 million hectares at present, after losing more than 75 percent of its forests to exploitation in the past few decades. Some 43 million hectares of the forest, or an area more than half the size of Borneo, has been damaged in the past five years.

The condition of the country's forests, once known as the second-largest source of biodiversity in the world after Brazil, started to decline after the New Order regime exploited the forests and mines as its two major money machines. Currently the government has also adopted an unfriendly approach to forest exploitation. It is, for example, asking for approval from the House of Representatives for 22 mining companies to resume operations within protected forests. Last July, State Minister for the Acceleration of Development in Eastern Indonesia Manuel Kaisiepo openly rejected Forestry Law No. 41/1999, which replaced Forestry Basic Law No. 11/1967. Kaisiepo rejected Article 38(4), which bans open-cast mining on protected forests, as he fears it would jeopardize some 39 mining operations in protected areas in Eastern Indonesia. While the House has yet to give its consent to the 22 companies, the proposal has drawn protests from environmentalists who warn that mining operations in protected forests would not only endanger the ecosystem but also jeopardize the lives of the indigenous people.

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