Indonesian coal miners hailed the government’s decision to impose a moratorium on the issuance of new mining permits, saying the freeze would be needed to give authorities time to settle the growing conflicts resulting from overlapping permits.
The Indonesian Coal Mining Association (APBI) fully supported the government’s plan, since overlapping permit conflicts had been a problem for coal mining businesses operating in Indonesia, APBI executive director Supriatna Suhala said in Jakarta on Tuesday.
“This is a very good move,” he added.
The number of mining permits issued has increased sharply since the passing of the new mining law in 2009, which empowers local administrations to issue mining permits in their areas.
Since the implementation of the law, the number of mining permits increased to 10,245 as of August, last year, up from 597 permits in 2000, according to government data.
One result of the significant increase in the number of new permits being issued was that many mining permits overlapped one another since they were issued without following a standard mapping system or the procedures that had been laid out by the central government, he said over the phone on Tuesday.
Supriatna said that regional governments also granted many mining concessions without following regulations such as obliging the permit holders to conduct environmental impact analyses (Amdal) and submit explorations.
“Many of those governments didn’t know what to do. They didn’t understand the procedures,” he added.
“Due to these problems, even permits for state-owned coal producer PT Bukit Asam were given to other companies. That’s why verification and permit audits are necessary.”
The newly appointed director general for mineral and coal, Thamrin Sihite, had previously reported that most of the permit overlaps were in Kalimantan.
He pledged that the government would take all necessary measures to solve the problem.
Coordinating minister for the Economy Hatta Rajasa said on Monday that the government had temporarily stopped issuing new mining permits and extending the existing ones to settle growing conflicts between mining companies over the overlapping mining territories in the country, Kontan reported on Tuesday.
Hatta added that the moratorium on new mining permits would be lifted only after the mine overlaps were settled.
During the moratorium, the government would audit and verify the thousands of mining permits issued by provincial and regental governments to ensure that there would not be any overlap, he said.
Hatta added that the central government would form a team to be led by the Energy and Mineral Resources Ministry and the Domestic Affairs Ministry to audit mining permits across the country.
Finance minister Agus Martowardojo said that the verification process was needed not only to settle problems caused by overlapping mining areas but also to ensure that all permit holders followed regulations and did not destroy the environment.
The growing conflicts resulting from the overlapping mining areas have discouraged foreign investors, who are now crucial for boosting mining operations.
The Energy and Mineral Resources Ministry said it expected investment in the mineral and coal mining sector to reach $3.2 billion this year, a slight increase from last year’s $3.18 billion.