MAC: Mines and Communities

Mining and Society

Published by MAC on 2008-03-10

Mining and Society

10th March 2008

By Siti Maemunah, Mining Advocacy Network (Jatam)

Kompas Newspaper, Indonesia

21st February 2008

Amidst the deep grief due to the massive floods and landslides disasters all over the country, the President SBY on February 4th issued a Government Regulation (PP) No.2 year 2008, which basically gives the license to kill the already over-killed Indonesian forests. The PP regulates the state's income from non-tax sources (penerimaan negara bukan pajak) from non-forestry activities inside the forests area, which includes mining activities.

The PP gives another privilege to the miners. They only have to pay an amount of Rp.300 per year * for each meter of land in protected and productive forests to be changed into mining pits and holes. It means the price of ecosystem and life supporting system is even cheaper than that of a piece of fried banana sold by the street vendors.

Millions at risk, cheaper than fried banana

According to the PP, a mining company is allowed to change protected and production forests into large scale open pit mining area by paying Rp.1.8 -3 million per hectare per year. Other activities like oil and gas extraction, geothermal, telecommunication network, radio broadcasting antenna, television relay station, power supply, renewable energy technology installation, water sanitation and highway should pay even cheaper, amounting to Rp.1.2-1.5 million per hectare per year. This equals to Rp.120-150 per meter per year, perhaps making Indonesian forest value the lowest in the world.

The recurrent floods and landslides, due to ecosystem and forest systems destruction, has created a huge cost for the people and the environment. From 2000 to 2006, at least 392 flood disasters were recorded across the country. Thousands of people died and some hundred of thousands have become refugees.

The empathy of the country's caretaker is questioned. Do they really concern about the fate of the people and the future of Indonesian children? The seemingly sympathetic visit by the high rank official to the disaster victims is proved to be a fake gesture, if they continue to issue policy that instead of making the betterment of the people's welfare has only put the fate of millions of citizen at risk.

The issuance of the PP is also hard proof that shows how the President and his cabinet do not understand the crisis that is faced by Indonesia's environment. At the moment the forests loss in Indonesia reaches the rate of 2.76 million hectares per year on average. In South Kalimantan alone there are at least 400 coal mining licenses, mostly issued after the Soeharto regime.

A lot of government's policies have made people's safety and productivity worse-off. A CIFOR piece of research has mentioned that, in the last 7 years, 500 regulations were issued by the Ministry of Forestry alone in order to manage the forests. During the same period, forest cover shrank by as much as 11.2 million hectares.

The only party that cheers the issuance of the PP 2/2008 is, of course, the miners. In the last 8 years, foreign multinational mining companies have threatened to file cases against the Indonesian government in international arbitration courts, because their mining operation areas are located in the protected forests.

The hard lobby by the mining companies gained success when Act No.41 of 1999 was amended, two years ago, to allow mining companies to operate open pit mining inside the protected forests. There are 13 companies which have this right, most of them giant multinationals, like Freeport from the US, Rio Tinto from the UK, INCO from Canada, and Newcrest from Australia.

In order to mine inside the protected forests the companies must search for another forest area in exchange for the protected forest area that they destroy. But finding this area is quite difficult. They demanded an easier and cheaper way. And their demand is answered by the government with this PP.

Mining's Destructive Power

Instead of caring about the protest of the victims who suffer from mining activities, the leader of this country gives more and more facilities to the miners. The victims have to face the impacts of mining's destructive power, which is irreversible, in their daily lives.

In East Kalimantan, the fate of the victims of Kelian Mine which is owned by Rio Tinto is still uncertain while horizontal conflicts also arise during and after the company's operation. The people of Dayak Paser had to move from their villages because the Kideco Jaya Agung coal mine took over their land. The same situation happened to people of dayak Siang-Murung-Bakumpai in Central Kalimantan, where Aurora Gold extracted gold from their land. These cases have never been used as a reflection on how to create more just natural resources management in the future.

The other legacies of mining operations are hundreds of meters-width holes and pits that are just left behind without maintenance. Examples include holes in what used to be Ertzberg mountain caused by Freeport; those in the Toguraci forests, caused by Newcrest in North Maluku; in Serujan caused by Aurora Gold, and hundreds of other coal mining holes in South Kalimantan, along with thousands of tin mining holes in Bangka and Belitung islands.

If the government stubbornly keeps the PP, the Indonesian forest situation will become worse and the government will put millions of people and the environment in great danger.

* 10,000 Indonesian Rupiah = just over US$1


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