Mining permits cause conflict, group claims

Police, activists agree violence threat greatest at election time

Mining permits cause conflict, group claims
Environmental and livelihood issues top local concerns
Ryan Dagur, Jakarta, Indonesia

December 7, 2012

Almost all mining permits spark violence, an activist claims, mostly due to soaring illegal mining activities and improper granting of permits.

Hendrik Siregar from the Jakarta-based Mining Advocacy Network urged the central government to strongly press local administrations to be more careful in granting mining permits.

“There are 10,645 mining permits, not to mention oil and gas. According to our experience, almost all sparked conflict,” he said.

Last year, two villagers were killed by police after staging protests in East Nusa Tenggara province over the mining permit of PT Sumber Mineral Nusantara.

In October, thousands of residents in North Sumatra province vandalized buildings and cars to protest the installation in a nearby river of a mining pipeline belonging to PT Agincourt Resources.

Siregar said that mining permit applications are often rejected by local communities due to concerns for the environment and livelihoods.

However, local authorities often ignore community concerns and say mining activities would improve their welfare.

“If local communities reject mining activities in their areas, don’t force them to accept it. Make mining activities the last option, instead of the first priority, in any local administration’s development programs,” he said.

Sutarman said conflicts are likely to increase because of the 2013 local elections. Local leaders tend to issue more mining permits to raise money to fund political campaigns, he said.

There will be 122 local elections next year.

Mining conflicts always have a connection to local leaders’ political interests as well as to security officers hired at mining projects.

“It’s not just local leaders. Security officers also have an interest. They work together with businessmen,” he claimed.

Siregar spoke to after Chief of the National Police Criminal Investigation Directorate General Sutarman told lawmakers recently that conflicts between local communities and miners might increase, following the detection of 900 violent hot spots across the country.

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