JAKARTA (INDONESIA) / LONDON (UK) – Opposition is growing at home and abroad to proposals, due to be decided on by the Indonesian House of Representatives, to allow mining in Indonesia’s protected areas, home to precious wildlife. and their sponsoring national embassies.

Placer rejected in Borneo

Kalimantan (Borneo) forests are world famous as the home of one of humanity’s closest relatives, the orangutan, whose name literally means “people of the forest”. Sadly, the forests on which orangutans and Borneo’s indigenous Dayak peoples rely are being rapidly destroyed by illegal logging, plantations and mining, with 44% of its forests degraded in just 12 years. But Canadian mining company Placer is lobbying to mine for gold in the protected forests of South Kalimantan’s Meratus Mountains.

Representatives from the indigenous Dayak Meratus and Dayak Samihim peoples issued a passionately worded letter of protest, signed on 25th June 2003 in which they set out compelling reasons for rejecting the Canadian mining giant’s plans to exploit their land. Placer’s lobbying also sparked a demonstration in the South Kalimantan provincial capital on the 1st of July, demanding government action to reject lobbying from the company. The Provincial Government has now declared its opposition to the plans and called on the Indonesian national parliament not to permit mining in the Meratus protected forest.

Rio Tinto / Newcrest asked to leave Sulawesi

In Palu, capital of central Sulawesi island, a parallel story is unfolding of indigenous opposition bolstered by community and provincial government protests against lobbying from UK/Australian company, Rio Tinto, and from Newcrest to build a gold mine in the Poboya Protected Forest Park. Sustained Palu community opposition, including protests directly against Rio Tinto, has yielded separate statements by both the provincial House of Representatives (2 July 2003) and by Prof Aminuddin Ponulele, Governor of Central Sulawesi saying they will refuse any attempts from central government to permit the mine to go ahead. Governor Aminuddin said: “I’m not opposed to mining per se, but I do oppose mining which impoverishes the community. Why mine if the community has to pay for the impacts?”

UNESCO’s rebuff to BHP Billiton

The threat to protected areas is sufficiently acute to have prompted a rare official intervention from the UNESCO Asia Pacific office in Jakarta (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation). UNESCO’s letter appeals to Indonesian parliamentary committees currently considering government plans to mine in protected areas, with specific reference to tiny Gag island in West Papua where BHP Billiton plans to build the biggest nickel mine in the world, dumping waste into the sea.

The letter explains that the Raja Ampat archipelago including Gag Island is one of seven sites being considered for World Heritage listing. The extraordinary biodiversity in the Raja Ampat / Gag area includes 505 species of coral – 64% of all known coral species in the world. Scientific findings also listed 1,065 fish species – amongst the highest fish diversity in the world. UNESCO’s intervention is a blow to BHP Billiton’s lobbying to overturn protected forest status and the company’s plan to use STD – Submarine (ocean) Tailings (waste) Disposal, despite it’s claims to have reformed after the PNG Ok Tedi disaster. BHP’s Ok Tedi mine in Papua New Guinea caused severe, long-lasting pollution of the Fly River, and local communities successfully sued BHP for multi-millions of dollars in damages.

International Civil Society, academics speak out for forests Despite foreign government pressure asking the Indonesian government to weaken protected areas, more than 1,100 letters have arrived from individuals and organisations in 43 countries in support of forest protection, including the Sierra Club and the Orangutan Foundation, and some 6,000 postcards have been sent to the House of Representatives, the Forestry Department and the Minister for Mineral Energy and Resources from Indonesians. Student environmentalists have staged protests at the Australian Embassy in anger at Australian and other foreign government lobbying on behalf of mining companies, and their protests have been backed with support from academics.


Nur Hidayati, WALHI-Friends of the Earth Indonesia on (+62) 812 9972642
Siti Maimunah, JATAM-Indonesian Mining Advocacy Network (+62) 815 8097943
Igor O’Neill, MPI-Mineral Policy Institute (+62) 812 8612 286


Background and Supporting Documents included in press kit, available from inform@mpi.org.au or see http://www.jatam.org/

  • UNESCO Letter re protected forests and Gag Island
  • Letter of opposition from Dayak Indigenous communities (translated)
  • Map of affected areas
  • Background info sheet
  • Previous Press Releases and Jakarta Post opinion article
  • List of 15 companies, project locations and countries of origin
  • Evidence of Australian government lobbying
  • Photos of several demonstrations available upon request

From coalition to oppose mining in Indonesia’s protected areas: JATAM; WALHI-Friends of the Earth; Indonesian Center for Environment Law; WWF Indonesia; Kehati; PELANGI; Forest Watch Indonesia; MPI; POKJA PSDA; PELA