MAC: Mines and Communities

'Stop new business permits' for the sake of the environment

Published by MAC on 2010-03-02
Source: Jakarta Post

Indonesian NGOs call for limitations to mining

'Stop new business permits' for the sake of the environment

Jakarta Post

20 February 2010

Adianto P. Simamora, Jakarta -- A group of activists have urged the government to stop issuing new business permits to exploit natural resources due to poor regulation and the high number of overlapping permits.

They also called on the government to review licenses that had been given to companies that were yet to start operation.

The calls for a moratorium were made by the Mining Advocacy Network (Jatam), the Indonesian Center for Environmental Law (ICEL), the Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi) and the Women's Solidarity and People's Coalition for Justice in Fishery (Kiara).

They said that a temporary moratorium on business permits was urgent in order to allow time for the government to settle the policies needed to manage natural resources for the benefit of the people.

Jatam chairwoman Siti Maimunah said that in some provinces, the total number of business licenses awarded to companies to exploit natural resources far exceeded the entire land mass of the province.

"They [local authorities] no longer use common sense when issuing permits," Maimunah told a press conference on Thursday. Most of the permits were for mining and plantations, she added.

In East Kalimantan, she said, the total number of overlapping licenses awarded to mining and plantations had reached 21.7 million hectares, but the province's total area of land was only 19.8 million hectares.

"We are not against mining or plantation activities as long as they comply with the regulations. But now, selling permits has become a lucrative business for local authorities," she said.

The coalition said that despite the operation of big companies, the people of Kalimantan, which produced more than 200 million tons of coal per year, remained in poverty.

"Ecological disasters, social conflicts and health problems coupled with a high rate of poverty are still common in provinces that are rich in natural resources," she said.

The Environment Ministry found that most small-scale coal mining firms in East and South Kalimantan failed to produce environmental impact analysis (Amdal) documents, with a number of big companies failing to reclaim their former mining pits.

Executive director of the ICEL Rhino Subagyo, said the ministry was slow to act to protect the environment.

"The office of the environment ministry remains unmoved although it has the authority to act under the 2009 Environmental Law," he said.

The law requires the government to set an inventory on environment to map the capacity and the availability of natural resources.

The inventory is designed to be the basis for policy makers to determine strategic plans on environmental protection and management.

The law also obliges local administrations to formulate strategic environmental assessments to evaluate impacts that could harm the environment.

Under the law, each company should have environmental permits before starting operations.

"We are disappointed with the lack of willingness to impose the environmental law," Rhino said.

The House of Representative's Commissions VII overseeing environmental affairs has summoned the relevant ministries to discuss the issue.

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