Personal note: I never trust a word the Indonesian government says about protecting the forests etc. The evidence that they repeatedly lie is overwhelming.
Opening of Indonesia's Protected Forests Defended
Forestry Minister Zulkifli Hasan on Tuesday defended a presidential decision to open protected forests to development, saying only underground mining activities would be allowed, thus minimizing damage to the environment.
The regulation, which has reportedly been signed by the president, is yet to be issued, he said, adding that strict requirements will have to be met by companies before they are allowed to conduct underground mining.
“The regulation will only allow mining activities to operate under the forest areas. So this is not for open mining and hopefully will only bring a minimum impact to the ecosystem in protected forests,” said Zulkifli, adding that the regulation will be implemented soon.
He said the regulation would oblige companies to provide lands in exchange for their mining areas and strictly prohibited them from damaging the forests above ground.
“Because of the lack of regulations, most of the areas were being exploited without considering reforestation,” he said. “In addition, they will be obliged to pay taxes for operating mines under the protected forest.”
The underground mining regulation is one of two related to forest use that were to be finalized during the government’s first 100-days program.
Emil Salim, an adviser to President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and a former cabinet member, said there were only 13 mining companies granted special exceptions to operate in protected forests areas, a holdover from former President Megawati Sukarnoputri.
Emil said he was not aware of the underground-mining regulation but said such operations would only be suitable for geothermal activities.
“But this is still in discussion, because analysis on the technology to ensure minimum impact for protected forest areas would be needed,” he said. “It still needs more technology to make sure that the [geothermal] activities will not affect the forests’ function to absorb water in order to prevent erosion, floods or landslides.”
Meanwhile, Siti Maimunah, national coordinator of the Mining Advocacy Network, said the regulation did not deal with urgent issues concerning the sector.
“They don’t have to issue that kind of regulation to prevent more illegal mining [in protected forest areas] because the Law on Forestry already stipulates that open mining is prohibited in protected forest areas,” Siti said.
She said the regulation was only to legalize another form of mining, while the country’s main objective should be to put in order mining-permit issuances that have been led to illegal mining activities.