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Editor: Ricardo Carrere



- Indonesia: Mounting opposition to mining in protected areas

The "Coalition to oppose mining in Indonesia's protected areas" has issued
a media release to expose how mining activities are encountering strong
and mounting opposition at various levels. The Coalition is composed of
the following ten groups: JATAM; WALHI-Friends of the Earth; Indonesian
Center for Environment Law; WWF Indonesia; Kehati; PELANGI; Forest Watch

Reactions at open pit mining in protected forests have been coming from
civil society in Sumatra, Kalimantan, Java, Sumbawa Besar (south-east
Indonesia), Sulawesi. These include letters of protest, postcards,
demonstrations, declarations and statements by provincial governments,
students, academics, indigenous peoples, ordinary Indonesians and by the
international community.

It seems that public perception is that things have gone too far with
mining activities. That's how the Canadian mining company Placer Dome's
plans to mine for gold in the protected forests of South Kalimantan's
Meratus Mountains --home of the Dayak peoples and the orangutans-- have
sparked a passionately worded letter of protest by Indigenous Dayak
representatives, a demonstration in the South Kalimantan provincial
capital on the 1st of July demanding government action to reject Placer
Dome's lobbying and a declaration of the Provincial Government calling on
the Indonesian national parliament not to permit mining in the Meratus
protected forest. It's high time, since 44% of Dayaks' forests have been
degraded in just 12 years!

In Palu, capital of central Sulawesi island, sustained community
opposition have included protests directly against Rio Tinto and
Newcrest's plans to build a gold mine in the Poboya Protected Forest Park.
Actions have yielded statements by both the provincial House of
Representatives (2 July 2003) and by Prof Aminuddin Ponulele, Governor of
Central Sulawesi, that they will refuse any central government attempts to
permit the mine to go ahead. The threat posed by heavy metals, dust and
other mine wastes to the Poboya Protected Forest Park and the water supply
for 200,000 residents of Palu is too great a risk according to Governor
Aminuddin, who was quoted by local paper Radar Palu on 3 July 2003
requesting Rio Tinto / Newcrest's joint venture company PT Citra Palu
Minerals to leave Central Sulawesi province.

Even the usually apolitical UNESCO Asia Pacific office in Jakarta (United
Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation) have appealed
to Indonesian parliamentary committees currently considering government
plans to mine in protected areas. They sent a letter with specific
reference to tiny Gag island in West Papua where BHP Billiton plans to
build the biggest nickel mine in the world and dump mine waste into the
sea. An IUCN / UNESCO International Workshop held in Hanoi in February
2002 had chosen the Raja Ampat archipelago including Gag Island as one of
seven sites to consider for World Heritage listing from a field of 25
potential sites in Southeast Asia for its high biodiversity: 505 species
of coral --which is an extraordinary 64% of all known coral species in the
world--, 1,065 fish species --amongst the highest fish diversity in the
world. UNESCO's intervention is a blow to BHP Billiton's lobbying to
overturn protected forest status and the company's plan to use STD -
Submarine (ocean) Tailings (waste) Disposal, despite it's claims to have
reformed after the Papua New Guinea Ok Tedi disaster. BHP's Ok Tedi mine
in Papua New Guinea caused severe, long-lasting pollution of the Fly
River, and local communities successfully sued BHP for multi-millions of
dollars in damages.

The international community has also reacted. Over 1,100 letters have been
sent by individuals and organisations in 43 countries addressed to
Indonesian President Megawati and including testimonials such as this from
Beth Partin, who heard of US mining company Newmont's push to expand into
Indonesia's protected forests: "I live near Denver, Colorado where Newmont
is based. In Colorado, we live every day with the damage caused by mining,
for example, the Alamosa River was poisoned more than a decade ago by a
cyanide leak and after years of cleanup is only beginning to show signs of

To date around 6,000 sets of three postcards, one addressed to the House
of Representatives, another to the Forestry Department and the third one
to the Minister for Mineral Energy and Resources have been signed and sent
by ordinary Indonesians as an expression of support for existing
environment protections against mining. Student environmentalists have
staged protests at the Australian Embassy in anger at Australian and other
foreign government lobbying on behalf of mining companies. Protests have
also been held at the House of Representatives and the Forestry
Department, with more planned. Heads of forestry education at five
prestigious universities: Bogor Institute of Agriculture, Gajah Mada
University, Mulawarman University, Hasanuddin University and Lampung
University Groups, have issued a declaration of opposition to mining in
protected areas on 3 July 2003. Students and academics highlighted the
total economic contribution made by sustainable forestry and environment
protection, which according to Indonesia's national budget, outweighs that
of mining, with much more potential untapped.

Article based on information from: "Indonesia regional govts, civil
society: More speak out for forest protection from mining", 13 July 2003,
statement by Coalition to oppose mining in Indonesia's protected areas,
e-mail: , sent by Mauricio F. Ferrari, Forest Peoples
Programme, e-mail: ,