Call for help from Bangka Island, Indonesia: Save our coral gardens!

Dugong swimming in tropical waterIts life is at stake: the dugong.
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On a small island in northern Sulawesi, the district manager has greenlit an iron ore mine – and has violated several laws in doing so. The mining project would devastate the entire island and destroy all life in the surrounding coral gardens. Please help the people of Bangka to preserve this unique natural treasure 

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“Democracy is dead – as is your conscience, Bupati!” The women of Bangka are furious and swing their protest signs in the air. But the unscrupulous district manager takes no notice of the crowd outside his official residence. In the very same way, he previously ignored at least three Indonesian laws, when he gave his approval for the destruction of the island.

Bangka Island lies off the northern tip of Sulawesi of the Indonesian archipelago. The islands belong to one of the most species-rich marine regions on Earth: the Coral Triangle in the Pacific Ocean. This area which is about 15 times as large as Germany accommodates a whole world of maritime superlatives: Three quarters of all coral species on Earth live there. 3000 species of fish including the clownfish as well as the whale shark, the world’s largest fish. Manatees, humpback whales, dolphins. It is the nesting site for six of the seven species of sea turtles.

“If this mine goes into operation, it will devastate the island and all life in the coral reefs will be destroyed”, says Revoldi Koleangan from the “Forum Save Bangka Island” which was launched by islanders, environmental organisations and dive resorts.

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The forum has pressed charges against Bupati on grounds of corruption and violation of law and has taken the case to the Indonesian National Commission on Human Rights. Still, Bangka Island and its marine natural resources can be protected, and the islanders now ask for assistance from around the world: Please sign the forum’s letter of protest addressed to the Minister for Energy and Mineral Resources of the Republic of Indonesia.

The original letter can be found here


“The Coral Triangle is recognised worldwide as a natural treasure”, President Yudhoyono of Indonesia said in 2009 at the World Ocean Conference in Manado on the island of Sulawesi. At this meeting, the leaders of the six neighbouring countries concluded an agreement on the comprehensive protection of the “Golden Triangle”.

But this agreement does not seem to apply to the district manager of North Sulawesi. Bupati Sompie Singal is interested in a completely different kind of treasure: the sources of iron ore in the ground and off the coast of Bangka Island. He has granted a concession to the Chinese mining company PT Mikgro Metal Perdana for 20 km² - to his own advantage and in violation of the Constitution of Indonesia. Mining is illegal on islands smaller than 2.000 km² – and Bangka has a surface area of just about 48 km². Apart from that, any action that causes damage to the ecosystems of small islands is against the law. And after all, every government is committed to preserving their country’s tourism treasures. Divers from all over the world are fascinated by the incredible underwater world of North Sulawesi. And apart from fishing, the 750 families of Bangka benefit from tourism.


To the Honorable
Minister for Energy and Mineral Resources
Of the Republic of Indonesia
in Jakarta

The Head of Government must withdraw the exploration permit he granted to MIKGRO METAL PERDANA Plc

Manado in North Sulawesi (Indonesia) has been chosen the centre of the Coral Triangle (Coral Triangle lnitiative Summit 2009) because of its marine diversity which comprises 76% of all known corals in the world. Three of the most famous dive areas of the world are located in Manado: Bunaken National Marine Park, Lembeh Strait and Bangka-Pulisan.

Following the World Ocean Conference which Manado hosted in 2009, a binding international agreement on the protection of the ocean has come into effect. This includes the ocean’s marine diversity which provides for the daily sustenance of the coastal dwellers and which secures the future of mankind, as it is considered a world heritage.

Ignoring all this, the Head of Government of North Minahasa granted a permit to the Chinese company Mikgro Metal Perdana Plc (Aempire Resource Hongkong) to mine iron ore on Bangka Island (Company Exploration Permit No. 162/2010). This project very much harms the interests of the inhabitants of Bangka and those of the world:

1. Mining iron ore violates the traditional and human rights of the islanders. The Head of Government granted the commission without prior consultation or consent and thus, has changed the status of the land from traditional property to a mining area. What is more, the company Mikgro Metal Perdana Plc plans to relocate the residents just like cattle.
2. By establishing an iron ore mine, the entire island might be devastated, since more than 40 million tons of ore are scheduled to be mined – which is more than the total volume of the island itself.
3. The iron mine will definitely destroy the environment. It will kill the endemic wildlife (like the spectral tarsier, a nocturnal primate) and damage the species-rich marine ecosystem which among others houses the dugong, a unique marine mammal.
4. The mining licence the Head of Government has granted to the chinese company violates Indonesian law (UU No. 27/2007 relating to the management of coastal areas and small islands; UU No. 4/2009 relating to minerals and coal, UU No. 26/2007 relating to regional management; UU No. 32/2009 relating to the conservation and management of the environment; UU No. 10/2009 relating to tourism). Only Mikgro Metal Perdana Plc will benefit from the project, because it will destroy the three main development sectors as defined by the state: Agriculture, Fishing and Tourism.

For these reasons, we – the FORUM SAVE BANGKA ISLAND – urge the Head of Government and/or the Minister for Energy and Mineral Resources to withdraw permit No. 162/2010 granted to Mikgro Metal Perdana Plc and to prevent further mining projects on the island.

Forum Save Bangka Island
Representatives of Non-Governmental Organisations
Representatives from the three villages on Bangka Island

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