Samarinda, East Kalimantan. Seeking to curb unnecessary environmental damage in his province, East Kalimantan Governor Awang Farouk Ishak on Friday instructed district heads and mayors to revoke mining and plantations permits of companies encroaching on protected forest areas.
Awang said the companies mainly operated around the city of Samarinda and in the districts of Kutai Kartanegara, East Kutai and West Kutai.
“This must stop,” he said. “Evaluate the issuances of existing permits. The problematic [concessions] must be stopped and their licenses revoked, particularly in those four areas.”
A lack of scrutiny by lenient officials had allowed mining firms and palm oil plantation companies to secure permits for concessions that overlapped protected forests, Awang said.
It was the 742 land dispute cases currently making their way through area courts that spurred the governor to take firmer action against offending companies.
“This is what got me thinking about imposing a moratorium or temporary stoppage of mining and plantation activities in East Kalimantan, although that would create controversy,” he said.
“That is why I need the support and advice from the [East Kalimantan] High Court,” he added.
Awang said the government is not yet planning on a complete ban on mining or palm oil plantations in the province but is instructing district heads not to issue more permits before the existing claims are resolved.
Failing to resolve land disputes also increases the danger of violent conflict breaking out, the governor added.
Bob Kamandaru, chairman of the Indonesian Coal Mining Association, said the 2009 law on mineral and coal mining had given district and city governments too much license to issue permits, paving the way for overlaps with spatial planning and protected forest areas set by the provincial and district government.
Bob said mining concessions have often been granted to inexperienced and unethical companies, which harm the environment with unprocessed waste, crude mining methods and the use of hazardous materials.
“Right now, out of the 8,523 mining permits issued across Indonesia only 3,778 are not overlapping with other mining areas. The overlaps in some places have led to violent conflicts,” he said.