An open-pit coal mine in Indonesia’s Bengkulu province. Photo: Taufik Wijaya
The governor of Indonesia’s Bengkulu province reiterated his commitment to bringing mining in the province under control, as environmentalists urge his administration to crack down on rampant illegality in the sector and the threat it poses to protected areas.
Areas designated as “protected forest” or “conservation forest” cover 46 percent of Bengkulu, and open-pit mining is prohibited in both types of forest area under the 1999 Forestry Law. Yet regents in the province have licensed dozens of companies to mine coal over thousands of such hectares, seemingly for open-pit.
According to conservation group the Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi), 5,159 hectares of protected forest and 113,600 hectares of conservation forests are under threat. In total, Bengkulu comprises 250,750 hectares of protected forest and 450,955 hectares of conservation forest.
The threatened areas include the Bukit Daun, Bukit Sanggul and Bukit Rajamandare Protected Forests; the Seblat Elephant Training Center and the Semidang Bukit Kabu Game Reserve; and Kerinci Seblat and Bukit Barisan Selatan National Parks.
Furthermore, there are 99 mining companies in Bengkulu that have yet to pay taxes and royalties for 2011 through 2013, for a total loss to the state of Rp90 billion ($6.8 million), according to Beni Ardiansyah, director of Walhi’s Bengkulu branch.
“We are waiting for the governor of Bengkulu to have the courage to act,” Beni told Mongabay-Indonesia. “If he does not take action, it means he accedes to the destruction of Bengkulu’s conservation and protected forests and that the country will lose out dramatically. … We will wait for recent developments to play out before reporting the matter to law enforcement.”
Rampant open-pit mining has contaminated many of Bengkulu’s major rivers and watersheds, Beni wrote in an op-ed for Mongabay-Indonesia last December.
Satellite imagery shows the flow of a river in Bengkulu interrupted by an open-pit coal mine. Image: Google
A list of mining business permits (IUP) for coal in Bengkulu’s conservation forest and protected forest areas. Source: Walhi Bengkulu
Bengkulu Governor H. Junaidi Hamsyah said the provincial Offices of Forestry and of Energy and Mineral Resources had been assigned to follow up on both matters.
In July 2014, the Forestry Ministry wrote in a letter to the Bengkulu administration that it should address the matter. Last December, the governor issued a circular letter instructing the province’s regents to make sure all oustanding mining business permits (IUP) had been properly issued and to enforce the law requiring mining companies to obtain a taxpayer identification number, settle finances and make post-reclamation guarantees.
“I have instructed that all IUPs in protected forests and conversion forests be reviewed,” the governor told Mongabay-Indonesia last week. “I am fully committed to bringing all mining permits under control. If not, there could be a major slide because the temptation [for corruption] is extraordinary.”
Risman Sipayung, head of Bengkulu’s Forestry Office, said he had sent a letter to all regents that were mentioned in the ministry’s letter and that the provincial government was still waitng for them to follow up.
- Dedek Hendry and Rahmadi Rahmad. “Gubernur: Tinjau Ulang Semua Izin Tambang yang Masuk Kawasan Hutan di Bengkulu.” Mongabay-Indonesia. 13 June 2015.