In a land hit by the resource curse, a new gold mine spooks officials

first_imgA company in Indonesia plans to start mining gold in a district in the country’s West Papua province that forms part of the ecologically important Cendrawasih Bay National Park — an ostensibly protected area.The company is currently applying for an environmental impact assessment that would allow it to obtain a mining permit, but local officials involved in the process say they see little benefit to the proposed mine. They say they prefer a development model built on tourism based on the region’s rich biodiversity.The district chief, who has the final say in issuing the permit, has signaled he approves of the project — flip-flopping on a pledge he made at the end of last year to prioritize an environment-focused development framework. JAKARTA — Environmental officials have warned of the potentially catastrophic impact of a planned gold mine in a conservation zone in eastern Indonesia, amid mixed signals from the district chief responsible for approving the project.The proposed mine would cover 233 square kilometers (90 square miles), an area four times the size of Manhattan, in Wondama Bay district in West Papua province. Eighty five percent of the district, though, sits within Cenderawasih Bay National Park, while parts of it also overlap onto or border the Wondiwoi Mountains Nature Reserve — both protected areas. The planned site also straddles the ancestral lands of three indigenous groups: the Kuri Wamesa, the Rasiei and the NaikereThe company applying for the mining permit, PT Abisha Bumi Persada (ABP), is based some 3,000 kilometers (1,860 miles) west, in the city of Bandung on the island of Java. It reportedly plans to operate for 15 years, and expects to mine 800,000 tons of ore per year, yielding 200 kilograms (440 pounds) of gold annually.A company in Indonesia plans to mine for gold in Wondama Bay district in West Papua province, with the proposed site marked by the red pin. Much of the district falls within Cenderawasih Bay National Park, a protected area. Image by Google Maps.Ben Saroy, head of the agency that manages Cenderawasih Bay National Park, warned that establishing a large-scale gold mine like ABP has proposed could damage the wider conservation area. Among his top concerns, he said, was the waste from the mining operations, such as mercury, that could pollute the environment and wind up in the food chain.Mercury is often used to bind gold from ore, and is typically burned off and discarded afterward, eventually ending up in rivers. In 2017, the Indonesian government ratified the Minamata Convention on Mercury, committing to phase out the use of the heavy metal in small-scale gold mining by 2020.“The impacts from any mercury contamination will be only apparent in 10 to 20 years, as babies are born blind, permanently disabled, and with other diseases,” Saroy told local media. “The waste must not be dumped into the sea.”He also warned that tourist arrivals to the national park could go down “if they know that the area has been contaminated with mercury.”The pristine marine ecosystem of Cenderawasih Bay National Park has attracted tourists from around the world. Image courtesy of Cenderawasih Bay National Park Agency.ABP is reportedly in the process of obtaining an environmental impact assessment, known locally as an AMDAL, as a prerequisite for getting a mining permit.Rudolf Rumbino, the head of the West Papua government’s environmental agency, said his office would not issue an AMDAL without assurances from environmental NGOs and the provincial government’s research and development agency that the benefits of the mine would outweigh any disruption to the environment.“Although some of the local communities have given their support, we will rely on the advice of NGOs and the R&D agency because they know better about the positive and negative impacts from this mining,” he told local media.Charlie Heatubun, who heads the R&D agency, was also skeptical about allowing gold mining in the district, saying it would create a lot of risks, including the further impoverishment of the local people.“Gold mining promises quick profits for the area, but that profit may not be worth the negative impacts,” he told local media.He said tourism remained the best option for the long-term development of Wondama Bay district. “If we develop tourism, we can ensure that the environment won’t be damaged,” he said. “The people can profit from the tourist visits and from related tourism businesses.”A swath of rainforest in Indonesia that was destroyed for gold-mining operations. Image by Boyhaqie/Mongabay-Indonesia.Prioritizing ecofriendly tourism over resource exploitation was the same argument used earlier by the Wondama Bay district chief, Bernadus Imburi, who has the final say on whether the mining permit is issued.“We don’t have forests or gold that can be exploited to help [develop the economy] in this area,” Imburi said last December at the signing of an environment-focused development framework with representatives from WWF-Indonesia and Cenderawasih Bay National Park.“We are confident that the potential of Cenderawasih Bay National Park and Wondiwoi Mountains National Reserve will serve as valuable capital to increase our regional revenue,” he added.“The tourism sector is the only top priority for Wondama Bay district in increasing our local revenue.”By February, however, Imburi appeared to have changed his mind, attending a discussion hosted by ABP with community representatives at which he spoke of a “win-win” situation for all sides.“I hope [ABP] manages everything by the book so that the company can operate and the local people can also live,” he said as quoted by local media.The discussion was part of ABP’s AMDAL obligation to allow communities that would be affected by its proposed operations a chance to weigh in. The district chief, though, appeared to discourage any opposition when he told those in attendance that “the local people must not act in such a way that the company can’t proceed.”In any case, there was little pushback from the community representatives, who said they approved of the proposed mining operation, as long as their rights as indigenous people were upheld and they weren’t “disadvantaged” further down the road. They also called on ABP to prioritize the hiring of workers from local communities over those from outside.The pristine forests of West Papua are being increasingly targeted for mines and plantations. Image by Rhett A. Butler/Mongabay.The Indonesian half of the island of New Guinea, administratively split into the provinces of West Papua and Papua, is all too familiar with the “resource curse.”For decades, a subsidiary of U.S.-based Freeport McMoRan has run the world’s biggest copper and gold mine, Grasberg, in Papua province. But its operations, wildly profitable for the company and for the central government in Jakarta, have done little for the development of local communities. Papua and West Papua remain the most impoverished provinces in Indonesia, with life expectancies and infant and maternal mortality rates that are among the worst in Asia.Freeport’s subsidiary has also long been criticized for a litany of environmental offenses, as well as for funding security forces that have been widely accused of rights violations against indigenous Papuans.In recent years, another resource has threatened to destroy the ancient and pristine rainforests that make the island a biodiversity hotspot like no other: palm oil. Major plantation operators, having largely depleted the forests of Sumatra and Indonesian Borneo, are now increasingly eyeing the vast, untouched wildernesses of Papua and West Papua.Charlie Heatubun, the West Papua R&D agency head, summed up the quandary of a region awash in natural wealth but falling short of most human development metrics: “Right now, we may be [financially] poor, but we are so rich in natural resources. We could end up being poor in both ways, and that’s a huge problem.”FEEDBACK: Use this form to send a message to the author of this post. If you want to post a public comment, you can do that at the bottom of the page. Article published by Basten Gokkon Deforestation, Development, Environment, Forest Destruction, Forests, Gold Mining, Mining, Natural Resources, Pollution, Rainforest Deforestation, Rainforest Destruction, Rainforest Mining, Rainforests, Threats To Rainforests, Tropical Deforestation, Tropical Forests, Waste, Water Pollution center_img Popular in the CommunitySponsoredSponsoredOrangutan found tortured and decapitated prompts Indonesia probeEMGIES17 Jan, 2018We will never know the full extent of what this poor Orangutan went through before he died, the same must be done to this evil perpetrator(s) they don’t deserve the air that they breathe this has truly upset me and I wonder for the future for these wonderful creatures. So called ‘Mankind’ has a lot to answer for we are the only ones ruining this world I prefer animals to humans any day of the week.What makes community ecotourism succeed? 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In some ways, this is nature trying to fight back. This ban is great, but the rest of the world just cannot allow it to be temporary, because history has demonstrated that once this coronavirus passes, they will in all likelihood, simply revert to been the planets worst Ecco Terrorists. Let’s simply not allow this to happen! How and why they have been able to degrade this planets iconic species, rape the planets rivers, oceans and forests, with apparent impunity, is just mind boggling! Please no more.Probing rural poachers in Africa: Why do they poach?Carrot3dOne day I feel like animals will be more scarce, and I agree with one of my friends, they said that poaching will take over the world, but I also hope notUpset about Amazon fires last year? Focus on deforestation this year (commentary)Bullhorn4dLies and more leisSponsoredSponsoredCoke is again the biggest culprit behind plastic waste in the PhilippinesGrapes7 NovOnce again the article blames companies for the actions of individuals. It is individuals that buy these products, it is individuals that dispose of them improperly. If we want to change it, we have to change, not just create bad guys to blame.Brazilian response to Bolsonaro policies and Amazon fires growsCar4 SepThank you for this excellent report. I feel overwhelmed by the ecocidal intent of the Bolsonaro government in the name of ‘developing’ their ‘God-given’ resources.U.S. allocates first of $30M in grants for forest conservation in SumatraPlanet4dcarrot hella thick ;)Melting Arctic sea ice may be altering winds, weather at equator: studyleftylarry30 JanThe Arctic sea ice seems to be recovering this winter as per the last 10-12 years, good news.Malaysia has the world’s highest deforestation rate, reveals Google forest mapBone27 Sep, 2018Who you’re trying to fool with selective data revelation?You can’t hide the truth if you show historical deforestation for all countries, especially in Europe from 1800s to this day. WorldBank has a good wholesome data on this.Mass tree planting along India’s Cauvery River has scientists worriedSurendra Nekkanti23 JanHi Mongabay. Good effort trying to be objective in this article. I would like to give a constructive feedback which could help in clearing things up.1. It is mentioned that planting trees in village common lands will have negative affects socially and ecologically. There is no need to even have to agree or disagree with it, because, you also mentioned the fact that Cauvery Calling aims to plant trees only in the private lands of the farmers. So, plantation in the common lands doesn’t come into the picture.2.I don’t see that the ecologists are totally against this project, but just they they have some concerns, mainly in terms of what species of trees will be planted. And because there was no direct communication between the ecologists and Isha Foundation, it was not possible for them to address the concerns. 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