Indonesia’s national climate change strategy document includes text suggesting that dumping mining waste in peatlands could be used as an approach to reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
According to Indonesia’s National Council on Climate Change, degradation of peatlands accounted for 41 percent of Indonesia’s greenhouse gas emissions in 2005, making the sector the country’s largest source of carbon emissions (deforestation accounted for 37 percent of 2005 emissions). As such, peatlands have emerged as a top priority under Indonesia’s climate action plan.
The national strategy document prepared by the National Development Planning Agency (BAPPENAS) lists several standard approaches for reducing emissions from peatlands degradation, including avoiding development of deep peat (greater than 3 meters in depth, as stipulated under an earlier presidential decree); controlling burning; and maintaining water levels (draining peat leads to decomposition, leading to carbon emissions). But the document also includes a non-conventional approach: “use of ameliorant”.
Draining and clearing of peat forest in Central Kalimantan, Indonesia. Photo by Rhett A. Butler.
It states: “Various waste substances, such as steel crust, which contains high Fe and Si has the potential to bind (chelating) simple organic acid so that the decomposition of such organic acid is not easy. In addition to the potential of reducing emission, the use of this substance at peat land may also solve the problem of steel slag disposal, which is currently categorized as toxic and hazardous waste.”
Why the clause about steel slag disposal? To Marcel Silvius of Wetlands International, the language reads like a convenient way for mining companies—which are particularly active in Kalimantan and Papua, regions with substantial peatlands—to dispose of toxic waste.
“Sounds to me like somebody trying to find a cheap way of disposal of their mining sludge,” Silvius told mongabay.com. “I have not come across this before except perhaps in the form of the fertilization of oceans with iron to capture carbon.”
“[I’m] not sure how they would want to apply this to millions of ha of tropical peatlands,” he added. “In addition, I believe there will be a difference between the normal organic material in peat and the organic acids mentioned in this brief.”
However another scientist was skeptical the geoengineering proposal would actually be implemented for “rehabilitating” peatlands at scale due to environmental concerns.
“It will never be more than a local and very partial solution and once they look at the further metal (e.g. cadmium) content of the slag it will probably fail to pass reasonable environmental standards,” said the scientist, who didn’t give permission for his name to be used.
BAPPENAS. Nastra REDD+ September 2010.
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