The government is still struggling to ensure the sustainability of mining activities nationwide as thousands of miners have yet to make a deposit into the reclamation-guarantee fund set up to support post-mining rehabilitation.
The Energy and Mineral Resources Ministry’s mineral and coal director-general, Bambang Gatot Ariyono, said on Tuesday that despite the fund being in place since 2011, only 48 percent of all holders of mining permits, known as IUP, in the country had made deposits to finance rehabilitation activities by regional administrations where they operated. He described the progress as “very slow.”
As of last year, there were 9,721 IUP holders in Indonesia, home to abundant natural resources, including coal, gold, tin, nickel and bauxite, according to the ministry’s data.
However, only 6,335 of these had obtained “clean-and-clear” (CnC) status, which acknowledges the holders’ compliance with environmental policies as well as tax and non-tax financial obligations, while also assuring their mining sites are free from overlapping land rights.
“We’ve tried everything from sending warning letters to temporarily suspending the operation of some miners,” said Bambang. “Moreover, we won’t process any of their proposals to secure other permits, including export licenses, if they still fail to comply with the policy.”
As a result, a number of mining regions are currently facing severe environmental damage, including Bangka Belitung Islands, Indonesia’s top tin-producing province, where the commodity is mined to feed the electronics and automotive industries, among other sectors.
As of last year, there were 601 non-CnC mining permit holders in Bangka Belitung Islands, or 55 percent of the total permit holders in the province off Sumatra Island.
According to the Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi), 1.05 million hectares of the total 1.63 million ha of land in Bangka Belitung Islands are currently in a critical condition caused by heavy tin mining that has spanned three centuries.
Some 20,000 abandoned pits exist in the province leading to more than 50 deaths annually, according to Walhi’s estimate.
“We hope the government can take firm action to fully ban mining activities in Bangka Belitung Islands. Then, mining companies should immediately restore the environment as obligated by existing regulations,” said Ratno Budi, the executive director of Walhi’s Bangka Belitung Islands chapter.
The government could no longer force Bangka Belitung Islands to depend on mining to drive the province’s economy, especially because of its gradually shrinking tin reserves.
According to the Indonesian Association of Tin Exporters (AETI), tin production fell to 63,519 tons last year from 101,400 tons in 2012.
Data from Central Statistics Agency (BPS) also reveals the continuing decline in the mining and excavation sectors’ contribution to the regional gross domestic product (GDP) to 12.4 percent in the first half of this year from 15.5 percent five years ago.
Executive director of the Indonesian Center for Environmental Law (ICEL) Henri Subagiyo also made a similar call, saying that the government had to focus on reforming the country’s mining sector to preserve the environment, including by issuing a national moratorium on tin-mining licenses in Bangka Belitung Islands.
Bangka Belitung Governor Erzaldi Rosman Djohan has decided to postpone the issuance of new tin-mining licenses or extending old ones for the next two or three months until it finishes a new gubernatorial regulation (Pergub) to curb illegal mining activities in the province.
“A national moratorium will be a fair decision for the government to balance its needs in boosting the country’s economy and protecting the environment,” Henri said.
Nevertheless, Indonesian Mining Association (IMA) chairman Ido Hutabarat said many mining companies had voiced concerns over the government’s overlapping policies, especially those pertaining to efforts to protect the environment.
“After obtaining the forest area utilization permits [IPPKH], miners are certainly required to pay for the reclamation activities. However, at the same time, the government also forces us to rehabilitate the river basin area [DAS]. It is just too expensive for us,” Ido said.
Source: Viriya P. Sinngih / The Jakarta Post
27 September 2017