Sulawesi: 250 mining operations shut down

Sulawesi wrinkled hornbill The hornbill, cuscus, anoa and maleo are fighting for survival on Sulawesi (© flickrCC BY 2.0)

Aug 18, 2016

Mining operations are being shut down, the authorities are investigating, and the rainforest and its inhabitants can breathe easier – a big success for our Indonesian partner JATAM. Endangered species such as the hornbill, cuscus, anoa and tarsier deserve a respite.

Copper, gold, nickel, molybdenum and iron ore deposits can be found under Sulawesi’s mountain forests – and the environmentally sound option would be to leave them in the ground! Nevertheless, 500 mining companies are digging up Morowali district alone, leaving a trail of destruction in their wake.

Painstaking investigations by our partner on the ground, the anti-mining network JATAM, have since alerted Indonesian anti-corruption authorities, who have shut down half of the mining operations in recent months.  Nature and local people can breathe easier for now.

Time and again, JATAM sued mining companies and scored dozens of victories in court by documenting acts of bribery and illegal gold or iron mining operations. In many cases, however, simply suing a company was not enough – they would simply keep digging with impunity.

Thanks to international pressure brought to bear by Rainforest Rescue, JATAM has now succeeded in mobilizing the anti-corruption authorities.

Sulawesi is outstanding in its biodiversity. It is not far from Borneo and mainland Asia, yet it is home to numerous unique species such as the hornbill, tarsier, bear cuscus, anoa (a small bovine species endemic to Sulawesi) and the maleo, a large chicken-like bird that hatches its eggs in sun-warmed sand.

These and other endangered species deserve a respite. But gold is hard to resist, and the danger is not yet over.