Sulawesi: Mining threatens nature reserve

An excavator destroys the rainforestThe destruction can still be stopped

A unique rainforest landscape on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi is under threat: The district chief has granted permission for test drillings for a nickel mine. Mangroves and precious ironwood trees were cut down to build roads and a port. But the destruction can still be stopped – please write to the Indonesian government!

“The Morowali nature reserve is characterized by an extraordinary biodiversity, encompassing several different types of rainforest: from the mangroves in the sea and coastal and floodplain forests to mountain- and cloud forest on the mountain crests. This natural treasure is of vital importance for our island.” Andika Ndika of the JATAM Mining Advocacy Network has visited the Morowali nature reserve repeatedly in the past months because its rich endemic animal and plant life has been in acute danger since 2011. The district chief has issued Indonesian mining company PT. Gemah Ripah Pratama (PT. GRP) an exploration permit for nickel for 145 hectares – right in the middle of the nature reserve.

Andika is the campaign leader of our partner organization. In October 2011, JATAM activists discovered that PT. GRP is clearing the mangrove forest to make room for an export port, which is to be built in part using the wood of felled ironwood trees from the nature reserve. The mangrove belt forms part of the commons of three villages and extends into the Morowali nature reserve. 209,400 hectares were placed under protection by the Ministry of Forestry in April 1999.

“On 1 June 2012, PT. GRP started building a road,” says Andika. “It leads from the mine through populated area to the export port. Nickel mining has started as well, even though the company’s permit is limited to test drillings.”

After several protest marches and complaints, JATAM has now started a petition and hopes for support from around the world. They demand an end to all mining activities in the Morowali nature reserve and an investigation into the illegal actions of all involved parties. In addition, PT GRP should be put under obligation to reforest the affected areas.

You will find JATAM's original letter here.

Natural resources in Sulawesi

The Indonesian island of Sulawesi is rich in natural resources, particularly in its mountainous center. Nickel, iron ore, gold and copper are among the deposits most coveted by government and mining companies. The biggest mining projects in the province of Central Sulawesi are located in the Morowali district. Over the past five years, the industry has experienced an unprecedented boom. JATAM’s activists estimate that the district chief has issued 189 mining concessions. “Most of the concession holders work without the prescribed supervision and inspection,” says JATAM’s Andika Ndika. “This means that the clearing of forest can go on without any intervention by the authorities.”

This has catastrophic consequences for local residents as well as for animals and plants, many of which are endemic, such as the tarsier, the bear cuscus, the mountain and the lowland anoa, and the maleo, a large chicken-like bird that places its eggs in the sun-heated sand for hatching.