Editorial: Leaving behind black holes
The mass media paid hardly any attention to the finding of the Supreme Audit Agency (BPK) that nearly 140 coal mining companies had neither submitted reclamation plans nor deposited guarantee funds for reclamation work in their mining areas, as required by the 2009 mining law.
BPK member Ali Masykur Musa, who revealed the auditor’s finding when he delivered the 2010-2011 audit report on the Energy and Mineral Resource Ministry on Monday, warned of the big risks to the environment if such flagrant breaches of the law were not firmly dealt with.
Even more alarming, Musa added, was that the number of such recalcitrant mining (mostly coal) firms was probably much larger because the findings were based on the agency’s audit work on mining companies selected at random in only three provinces in Kalimantan.
The 2009 mining law clearly stipulates the obligation of mining companies to submit five-year reclamation plans and post-mining work plans when they file applications for mining licenses from regional administrations to ensure that they will not simply leave behind giant black holes after exploiting all the proven reserves in their concession areas.
The law also requires mining companies to put up guarantee funds so that the regional administrations can assign the reclamation work to third parties in case the miners themselves are not able to implement the reclamation plans to restore the ecosystems in the post-mined areas.
The central government issued in December 2010 Government Regulation No.78/2010 which provides technical details on reclamation plans such as annual budgets and implementation schedules. The main objective of the reclamation is to restore post-mined areas to their original ecosystem.
After the enactment of the 2009 mining law, it is regional administrations (provinces or regencies) that are responsibible for enforcing the provisions on reclamation because most mining licenses are now under their jurisdiction.
But as the finding of the state auditors has shown regional administrations have freely awarded mining licenses even though the applicants have not submitted well-designed reclamation plans, nor deposited guarantee funds.
Regional administrations seem to have been sucked into a competition to issue as many mining licenses as possible in order to raise as much taxes as possible without due considerations for the severe damage to the land and the environment if post-mined areas are not properly reclaimed.
Thousands of coal mine licenses have been issued over the past seven years, notably in Kalimantan, and the country has become the world’s sixth largest producer of thermal coal with an annual output of over 330 million tons.
Mining has played an important role in the country’s economy as the country holds major deposits of oil, gas, copper, gold, nickel, coal, silver, diamonds and base metals.
The findings of the state auditors, however, show how the stipulations on the reclamation of post-mined areas have simply been ignored by regional administrations and mining firms.
The coal-mining boom will inflict severe damage on the environment, leaving behind giant, arid, black holes if the mining operations are not properly supervised with the strong enforcement of the forestry, environmental, spatial and mining laws.
Even though the regional autonomy and mining laws have devolved the authority of mining licensing to regional administrations, the central government, through the Energy and Mineral Resources Ministry, is still responsible for ensuring that all laws relating directly or indirectly to mining activities are strongly enforced.