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News Release

Save Indonesia's Protected Forest Areas from Mining

Deforestation in Indonesia has reached 2.4 million hectares (1.2%) per year or approximately 10 acres of rainforest a minute.

  • Mining multinational companies and foreign governments are lobbying the Indonesian government to open up protected forest areas, national parks and other protected areas for mining while local communities and environmental justice groups are demanding that the protected forest areas remain intact and free from mining.
  • The Indonesian House of Representatives is due to decide this matter in July 2003

Deforestation in Indonesia is occurring at an alarming rate. Allocated protected forest areas, national parks and other protected areas are now being threatened by mining activities. The government of Indonesia has issued several laws that aim to protect forests and water catchments, including Forestry Act No. 41/1999, which prohibits open-pit mining in protected forest areas. However, the government is also desperate for foreign investment to bolster a failing economy, and is under severe pressure from the mining industry and foreign governments to override this environment protection law and grant mining permits.

Foreign companies and their governments must respect Indonesia's communities, forests and the laws designed to protect them.

The Indonesian government will decide on the fate of 22 mining companies wanting to mine in protected forest areas by the end of June 2003. The Department of Forestry has indicated it may bow to pressure and allow 15 of the 22 mining operations to proceed in protected forest areas. Mining companies who are pushing to mine in protected areas include US-owned Newmont and Freeport, Australian/UK mining companies BHP-Billiton, Rio Tinto and Newcrest, and Canadian companies Placer Dome, Inco and Weda Bay Nickel.

Currently, mining is encroaching on 11.4 million hectares of forest in Indonesia. These areas under threat of mining include 8.68 million hectares of protected forests and 2.8 million hectares of conservation areas.

Forest conservation, biodiversity preservation and prevention of devastating floods in Indonesia rely heavily on the protected forest and conservation area system. The size of the protected areas in Indonesia is a relatively small 55.2 million hectares with 31.9 million hectares designated as protected forests and the remaining area as conservation areas. All of these areas have been damaged in some way, from illegal logging, forest fires, palm oil tree plantations, and other industrial uses including mining.

Indonesian protected forest areas are few but are sites of rich biodiversity with profuse endemic flora and fauna species, as well as the homelands of indigenous communities. On the other hand, the mining industry has a large area of operation (based on the licenses granted), covering 66.891.496 ha (more than 35% of Indonesia's land area) in 2001. Not satisfied, the mining industry has been relentlessly lobbying the government to open up new protected areas for mining. Foreign governments are also lobbying on behalf of their multinational mining company giants. BHP Billiton, Newcrest, Placer Dome, and Rio Tinto specifically requested, and received, lobbying assistance from the Australian Embassy in Indonesia on the matter of mining in protected areas. Australian embassy officials on nine occasions pressed Indonesian government Ministers and officials to drop the ban on mining in protected areas.

Twenty-two mining companies have been granted mining leases, and some have spent money on exploration, now claiming they therefore have a right to dig open-cut pits in protected areas. However, all Indonesian mining contracts state that the company must obey Indonesian statutes and regulations including environmental protection laws. These regulations and statutes may change from time to time to adjust to the needs of the environment and social condition for the benefit of the Indonesian people.

Therefore there's no valid argument not to obey Forestry Act No.41/1999 and other forestry regulations. Instead of obeying the law, those companies have threatened Indonesian government officials with lawsuits if they do not permit them to begin open-cut mining operations.

Mining in Indonesia has left a legacy of environmental and social impacts. Mining multinationals like Newmont, Aurora Gold and Rio Tinto are currently shutting down some of their Indonesian mines, leaving behind open pits, lands unable to be reclaimed, acid mine drainage, and other environmental and social nightmares. Local people and environment groups are angry for good reason.

Indonesia has committed to the global conservation of protected areas and natural biodiversities by ratifying the Convention on Biological Diversity(CBD) and agreed to the Statement of Forest Principles. It is part of the United Nations Forest Forum (UNFF). Indonesian environment groups therefore insist that Indonesia must honour and implement the international agreements it has entered into. Meanwhile, they demand that other countries respect laws made to conserve and protect Indonesia's environment.

List of Fast-tracked Projects and Companies seeking Access to Protected Forests:
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 Dome, Canada)

Information from the Coalition to oppose mining in Indonesia's protected areas:
JATAM; WALHI-Friends of the Earth; Indonesian Centre for Environment Law; WWF Indonesia; Kehati; PELANGI; Forest Watch Indonesia; MPI; POKJA PSDA; PELA

For more information, go to: jatam.org and to http://programsetapak.org/partner/bumi-mining-advocacy-network-jatam-east-kalimantan/