Jakarta – Greenpeace Indonesia has expressed it regret over government regulations which make it easier to extend mining permits when South Kalimantan is being inundated by horrendous floods as a result of damage to the environmental.
Greenpeace Indonesia energy and climate campaign manager Hindun Mulaika says that recently enacted regulations such as the Minerals and Coal Mining Law (UU Minerba) and the Job Creation Law (UU Cipta Kerja) have the potential to allow unlimited extensions for mining companies in South Kalimantan.
This includes companies owned by the brother of State-Owned Industries Minister (Menteri BUMN) Erick Thohir, Garilbaldi Thohir, and the Bakrie Group.
"One of the coal companies which has felt the 'enjoyment' of the UU Minerba is PT Arutmin Indonesia, owned by the Bakrie Group which controls more than 57,000 hectares of land in South Kalimantan", he told CNN Indonesia on Tuesday January 19.
Mulaika explained that in November last year PT Arutmin obtained a 10-year contract extension. Under the Mineral and Coal Mining Law, he added, the mining company will be able to extend its permit again after 2030.
According to Mulaika, mining companies should not be given such latitude without a thorough evaluation of the impact of mining industries on the environment. Yet through the Mineral and Coal Mining Law, permit extensions are guaranteed without considering the social and environmental impacts.
"Then there’s PT Adaro, owned by Erick Thohir's (Menteri BUMN) family, which controls 31,380 hectares of coal mining concessions in South Kalimantan, which will find it very easy to extend its permit without having to release its current [concession] area [back to the government first]", he continued.
Aside from regulating permit extensions, Mulaika believes the law will also make it easier to extend land holdings for other mining companies because permits now only need agreement from the related minister.
This kind of policy approach could contribute to increasing the danger of floods like those which have recently inundated South Kalimantan.
Mulaika suggests that the government reflect upon other countries which have reduced or even stopped the use of coal because of its impact on the environment. It is only in Indonesia, he said, that coal mining companies are given a red carpet.
Under the Job Creation Law, he continued, the coal industry is given a zero percent royalty to increase the value of its mining produce.
Under previous regulations companies were obliged to pay a royalty of up to 7 percent of net profits to central or regional governments and sell 25 percent of their coal to the domestic market at a low price.
He believes the new policy is a huge mistake. "By providing a royalty free incentive for coal companies they will increasingly exploit existing resources. The coal industry is the golden child of the Jokowi [President Joko Widodo] administration which is giving away many incentives", he said.
Mulaika explained that the burning of coal and deforestation has contributed greatly to rising global temperatures and warming the world's oceans. So it has the potential to worsen the climate crisis which is creating extreme wealth in various parts of the world.
If it is not halted immediately, he is concerned that the impact of the climate crisis will become more widespread and worse. According to Mulaika, President Widodo must have the courage to take concrete steps to protect the environment.
"So Pak [Mr] Jokowi, if you really care about the victims of the disasters which are happening right now, don't just send rubber boats. Revoke the UU Cipta Kerja and the UU Minerba. Enact the Draft Law on Traditional Communities and promote the Draft Law on Renewable Energy", he continued.
PT Arutmin Indonesia's General Manager for Legal and External Affairs [Ezra Sibarani] says that the contract extension for the mining company was obtained through an evaluation process.
"Arutmin in South Kalimantan did indeed obtain an extension for 10 years after going through a technical, administrative, environmental and financial evaluation process by (the related government department) in the mineral and coal mining (sector)", Sibarani told CNN Indonesia.
Sibarani explained that PT Arutmin's operational activities always follow Environmental Impact Analysis (AMDAL) guidelines and consider environmental management.
He also claimed that the company deployed a team to regions around its mining sites to assist the victims of the South Kalimantan floods.
Meanwhile, PT Adaro Energy Ltd Head of Corporate Communications, Febriati Nadira, said that the company is currently preparing a submission for a business permit extension.
He emphasised that PT Adaro always applies best company management and mining principles. This includes the impact of mining activities on the environment.
"[We] build biodiesel facilities, ultra-super critical PLTU [coal-fired power plants], renewable energy electricity generators, participate in water management project throughout Indonesia, implement sustainable development programs", he told CNN Indonesia.
Nadira said that PT Adaro also implements the 14001:2015 International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) Environmental Management System and the 50001:2011 ISO Energy Management System in order to reduce the production of emissions in the vicinity of mining operations.
According to a Greenpeace report titled Coal Mines Polluting South Kalimantan's Water, which was issued in 2014, at least two-thirds of Indonesia's coal exports come from South Kalimantan.
In 2008, at least 26 mining permits were issued by the central government and 430 permits issued by regional government in South Kalimantan. Indonesian Coal Mining Association (APBI) records show that as of 2013 there are 480 legal mining companies in South Kalimantan.
The study also revealed the various impacts that can be cause by coal mining activities on the surrounding environment. This includes, among others, deforestation, damage a consequence of digging mining pits, pollution and mining waste and impacts on the health of local people and fauna. (fey/gil)
[Translated by James Balowski. The original title of the article was "Kalsel Banjir, Greenpeace Sentil Obral Izin Tambang".]