Sulawesi: Mining threatens nature reserve

An excavator destroys the rainforest The 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.

Dear Mr. President,
distinguished Minister,

Mining activities in the Morowali district have increased significantly over the past five years. According to the information at our disposal, the district chief has issued no less than 189 mining concessions (IUP) to date. The majority of mines are not sufficiently supervised by the authorities, so the clearing of forests can go on unchecked.

With this petition, we protest against the exploitation of the nickel deposits, the illegal logging and the destruction of the Morowali natural reserve.

The company PT. Gemah Ripah Pratama (PT.GRP) was issued permit no. 540.3/SK.002/DESDM/XII/2011 for test drillings in an area amounting to 145 hectares. In October of 2011, PT.GRP has started logging the mangroves and the forest along the municipalities of Tambayoli, Tamainusi and Tandoyondo. Field investigations (instigated by JATAM) by the Kolonedale conservation authority on 8 and 9 November 2011 show:

1. The mangrove forest along the coast of the Tambayoli, Tamainusi and Tandoyondo municipalities extends into the Morowali nature reserve. It comprises 209,400 hectares and was placed under protection by the Minister of Forestry per decree no. 237/Kepts11n/1999 on 21 April 1999.

2. The mangroves have been cleared in an area of 1200 meters length and 15 meters width to make room for a port.

On 1 June 2012, PT. GRP has started construction on a road from the mining area to the port – right through a populated area. The company has already been mining nickel on a 1-hectar area belonging to the Tambayoli municipality – despite the fact that its permit is limited to test drilling. PT. GRP is not only destroying the Morowali nature reserve but also selling and exporting nickel without an export license. It is thus in violation of decree no. 7 of 2012, which prohibits the export of raw materials.

We also want to denounce the injustice done to the residents of Sulawesi. The Morowali nature reserve has been protected by law since 1999. Residents of the adjacent municipalities face imprisonment if they are accused of removing forest products from the reserve. At the same time, the local authorities stand idly by while the mining company steals ironwood from the forest and destroys the reserve.

We demand an end to all mining activities in the Morowali nature reserve, an investigation into the illegal actions of all involved parties, as well as the reforestation of the affected areas.

Palu, Sulawesi, 25th September 2012
Andika Ndika, JATAM campaign manager


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