Coal mining ‘destroying’ Kalimantan
Adianto P. Simamora , The Jakarta Post , Jakarta Thu, 03/18/2010
A new report by environmental activists warns that after decades of deforestation from widespread illegal logging, Kalimantan now faces a bigger environmental threat: large-scale coal mining is severely damaging the island’s ecology.
Deadly Coal in Kalimantan, a report from the Mining Advocacy Network (Jatam) and Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi), assessed the coal mining industry from 2007 to 2009 in East and South Kalimantan, the provinces with the richest coal deposits.
“What is happening in both East and Southern Kalimantan will be easily replicated in Southeast and Western Kalimantan unless the government immediately stops issuing new licenses to mining firms,” Jatam coordinator Siti Maimunnah said.
“However, a moratorium seems unlikely as the government still favors economic development,” she said.
The report said that in 1980s, East Kalimantan loggers produced 11 tons of timber, most of which was sent to China, Korea, Malaysia, Japan and Europe.
“The logging businesses have readapted to massively exploit coal deposits. Coal production reaches 120 million tons per year,” the report said.
“In a sense, East Kalimantan has gone from the frying pan into the fire.”
The report showed there were 1,212 permits issued to small-scale coal mining companies in the last six years, with 33 licenses granted to large companies in East Kalimantan.
“With 70 percent of the country’s coal production coming from the province, East Kalimantan is an ATM for the central government,” it said.
Business licenses for small-scale mining firms are issued by the governor, regent or mayor. Business permits for large coal mine operators are issued by the central government.
Siti said the plethora of natural resources benefited only a small group of people, mostly investors who exported the coal.
She said that as of March 2007, 324,000 people, or 10 percent of the province’s population, still lived below the poverty line.
The report went on to say that as of 2008 in South Kalimantan, 280 licenses for small-scale companies were issued to mine coal deposits in a 553,814-hectare area.
“However, many local community have no access to electricity and poverty levels are still high,” Siti said.
Analysts from the School of Democratic Economics said that the government had no right to boast of its plans to cut carbon emissions from the energy sector until the practices in Kalimantan were resolved.
Coal has been blamed as a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions.
Indonesia plans to cut emissions by 26 percent by 2020.
Jatam and Walhi also called on the government to announce the findings from its investigation into coal mining in Kalimantan.
Environment Minister Gusti Muhammad Hatta made an unscheduled inspection to South Kalimantan coal mines last month.
Gusti, originally from Kalimantan, admitted that small-scale coal mines failed to comply with environmental regulations.
Forestry Minister Zulkifli Hasan has also threatened to revoke the business permits of mining firms who failed to rehabilitate abandoned pits.