Ika Krismantari , The Jakarta Post , Jakarta ,Sat, 03/01/2008 3:26 AM
Energy and Mineral Resources Minister Purnomo Yusgiantoro told hundreds of mining investors on Friday they would soon be able to apply to operate in productive as well as protected forests.
Purnomo cited a newly issued forestry regulation and said, "Under the new government regulation, we will allow you to mine in productive and protected forests, subject to you giving us compensation".
At present, there are 13 mining companies operating in protected forests.
The companies were granted an exception by the government in 2004 via a presidential decree, despite the fact their operations would violate a forestry regulation completely banning all mining activities in protected forest areas.
The exemption was allowed despite intense public opposition that said the mining operations jeopardized the nation's already depleted forests.
Those 13 companies include PT Aneka Tambang (Antam), PT Inco, PT Freeport McMoran Indonesia, PT Nusa Halmahera, PT Nataran Mining and PT Indominco Mandiri.
Beyond the 13, Purnomo said there would soon be another presidential decree indicating other mining firms could join the group.
Mining companies allowed to operate would be required to pay at most Rp 3 million per hectare per year for operating in a protected forest.
"We need a presidential decree to include all mining firms (not just the 13)," Purnomo said.
"They should pay compensation if they want to mine in protected and productive forestry."
Simon Sembiring, the ministry's director general for coal, mineral and geothermal, confirmed the presidential decree would soon be introduced.
But he said before the issuance of the decree, the government would coordinate with the Forestry Ministry and various research agencies to ensure a level of sustainability in the firms' mining operations.
"We will be very selective, however, all mining companies can submit their request for permits and we will decide which ones are selected," Simon said.
He said the 13 firms currently operating in protected forests had been selected from 150 submitted proposals.
He said the selection process applied only for applications to mine in protected forests and not in productive forests.
The Indonesian Mining Association (IMA) said the plan was a good arrangement and would improve the country's investments in the mining sector.
"What we need is certainty," IMA chairman Arif S. Siregar said.
"He hope that with this, things will be clearer and the energy and mineral resources ministry can finally resolve its endless dispute with the forestry ministry," he said.