Kutai Kartanegara, East Kalimantan. Police in Kutai Kartanegara have seized 1,100 metric tons of coal allegedly mined illegally from a protected forest, but have not made any arrests in the case.
Adj. Comr. Suwarno, a spokesman for the district police, said on Wednesday the coal was seized along with an excavator and two dump trucks belonging to the company Zen Jaya Indonesia.
He said the company was mining outside its concession area and encroached the Bukit Suharto community forest.
“Because the mining took place inside a protected forest area, it’s clearly illegal.”
Suwarno added that several workers from the company were questioned by police, but no one had been named a suspect yet pending further investigation.
“For the moment we’re treating them as witnesses. We’ll work closely with the district mining agency for more evidence.”
Police are also investigating allegations that ZJI’s permit for its concession on the outskirts of the forest has expired.
Mining is rife in the forest, despite its protected status, with environmental activists blaming government policies.
A decree issued in 2009 by the Forestry Ministry effectively expanded the forest’s size from 61,850 hectares to 67,766 hectares — and in the process extended the conservation area to include 50 coal mines that had been established outside the forest’s initial periphery.
Another contentious aspect of the decree is that most of the new forest area tacked on came from a neighboring forest used by Samarinda Mulawarman University for biodiversity research.
Scientists from the university’s Tropical Forest Research Center said less than a third of the research forest remains intact, with the rest razed by loggers, miners and property developers.
Kahar Al Bahri, coordinator of the East Kalimantan branch of the Mining Advocacy Network (Jatam), said on Wednesday 33 mining companies had concessions that overlapped into the forest and that 15 of them were operating.
The district forestry came under fire last year for accepting three patrol cars from mining companies in exchange for recommending them for a hauling license, which would let them cut a road through the forest. Officials at the time denied acceptance of the cars constituted bribery.