Reports Indicate West Sumatra Holds a Potential of 75 Million Metric Tons of Iron Ore

West Sumatra Province, which has extensive forest areas, is known to store large ore resources with fairly good iron (Fe) levels. 

The Head of the West Sumatra Energy and Mineral Resources Agency ( EMR), Herry Martinus, said that when it comes to iron ore mining, all authority, from permits to supervision, belongs to the central government. 

He admitted that West Sumatra EMR did not have definite data related to the distribution of iron ore mines because the provincial government did not have the authority to conduct field mapping of the iron ore potential.  

However, based on existing data from several companies conducting iron ore resource surveys in the West Sumatra region, there are 75 million metric tons (MT) of iron ore resources or potential with 62% Fe content. 

“[The 75 million MT] is outside the preserved forest. If the resources are inside the preservation forest, it is estimated to be more than 100 million MT. However, no permit will be granted for mining in preserved forest areas,” he said on Monday (29/1/2024). 

The current condition of the 75 million MT iron ore resource is that some companies have been working on it with permits owned by iron ore mining companies since 2015.

According to the data owned by the West Sumatra EMR, the iron ore potential reached 35 million MT on 1,561.94 hectares of area across four regencies in West Sumatra and had been worked on by 8 companies, such as West Pasaman, Solok, Pasaman, and Dharmasraya regencies. 

Herry detailed that out of the four regions, the iron ore mines are currently running in two points in the Solok area and another in West Pasaman. 

“The data I have show that there are eight companies licensed (IUP / mining business license) to carry out iron ore mining activities in West Sumatra,” he said. 

PT Karya Usaha Aneka Tambang, located in Solok, has 31 hectares of land with a mining output of 1.7 million MT. Then, in West Pasaman, PT Gamindra Mitra Kesuma cultivated 163.30 hectares of land and mined 560,649 MT of iron ore. 

Furthermore, PT Arosuka Mandiri in Solok has 198 hectares of land and 9,091,601 MT of iron ore. PT Dharmapower Bersama, also in Solok, has 190 hectares of land with 26,416,319 MT of iron ore. 

PT Mineral Sukses Makmur also works in Solok covering 73.70 hectares of land, and has mined 3,628,000 MT of iron ore.  

Herry said that another company in Dharmasraya, PT Tambang Sungai Suir, will also work on iron ore resources with an area of 180 hectares and has a potential of 12,014,256 MT, but has yet to be worked on, despite already having a permit. 

“The calculation of iron ore resources is not the same once it has been mined,” he explained.  

He said the known amount of the resource would decrease when it was mined. Let’s say the estimated potential is 2 million MT in an area, but it turns out that only 1.5 million MT after mining.  

“This is reasonable because the potential is only an approximate figure,” he said. 

As for other companies, PT Pancasona Jaya Pratama in Solok and PT Sumber Minera Bersama in Pasaman have obtained licenses yet have yet to exploit the existing potential.

“According to the data from the central government we got, the iron ore mining activity is also not frequent, for reasons from the company constrained by the cost of mining production, such as equipment costs and various other necessities,” he said. 

According to him, the current condition is only about 50% of the iron ore potential in West Sumatra has been exploited by mining companies. The eight mining business licenses (IUP) are domestic companies. 

“It is indeed the domestic companies that work on it. However, it is only in West Pasaman that China is involved, but the license is domestic,” he said. 

Addressing Environmental Impacts 

Herry does not deny that iron ore mining activities have an environmental impact as logging will occur. 

However, within the permit for iron ore mining activities, some measures must be adhered to by the mining company. 

Starting from reforesting, namely planting trees on ex-mining land or changing ex-mining land that can bring economic value, such as becoming a tourist attraction area. 

“The ex-mining management is evident in Sawahlunto’s ex-coal mine, where a new tourist attraction has emerged. The iron ore mining company is obliged to handle it, so its condition returns to being green and beneficial,” Herry explained. 

He said that due to the iron ore mining activities, the local government gets revenue-sharing funds (DBH) and employment for the people living around the company so the local economy can grow through guidance for MSME players. 

“The sharing fund to West Sumatra depends on the amount of iron ore obtained by the company, hence a percentage calculation. It may not be much since the largest revenue fund still depends on new coal mines, which reaches IDR 35 trillion, and a little of that value comes from iron ore mining, but I don’t remember the detailed data,” he said. 

The Mining License is Not a Regional Authority 

Herry mentioned that the authority for iron ore mining permits lies with the central government. 

The provincial government, in this case, is only an intermediary for investors who wish to work on the potential of iron ore. Therefore, they can only watch the mining activities occur in an area. 

“Our regional government can’t do anything. Only the companies know how much iron ore has been mined, and the report is submitted to the Mining Inspector. Regarding whether it is only iron ore that is being mined or other things are being mined, we do not know because the central government is the one with the authority,” he said.

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