Indonesia passes new mining law ‘marred by controversy’

Indonesian President Joko Widodo.

Indonesia has passed into law a controversial measure aimed at expanding the country’s mining industry albeit seen to have socioenvironmental impacts.

Jakarta Post reported on Friday that Indonesian President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo officially signed the Coal and Mineral Mining Law on June 10 despite the strong apprehension from civil society organizations, allegedly due to larger concessions and longer contracts but with lesser environmental obligations.

The measure, which sought amendments to the 2009 mining law, was approved a month after it cleared the hurdle in the House of Representatives on May 12.

The Post quoted Dini Shanti Purwono, an expert member of the presidential staff, as saying that the new measure was meant to “balance out legal certainty, business certainty, and corporate compliance.”

She said that companies are expected to comply with the laws concerning the environment and state obligations.

Under the new law, companies are now allowed to quadruple the maximum size of traditional mining zones to 100 hectares and conduct mining activities in the rivers and seas. This opposed the 2009 law that limited the size of mining operations under a single permit.

Meanwhile, it cut the red tape for mining firms through as issuance of permits are now centralized at the Energy and Mineral Resources Ministry as against the governors and regents who were in charge previously.

Another controversial key provision was the automatic renewal of mining contracts by two more times for 20 years, opposing the prior law that required the government to “not immediately extend” expired mining contracts without having to offer it first to state-owned firms.

Organizations which are against the measure lambasted the passage, saying the government did not give stakeholders as well as civil society groups, foreign investors, and regents an ample time to scrutinize the bill.

“Deliberations in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic left no room for public participation and information,” said Edo Rakhman of Walhi Indonesia on May 12.

“What the House did was like a burglary in the middle of a fire,” he noted.

Eight organizations including Greenpeace and the Indonesian Forum for the Environment are seeking to challenge the new law through a judicial review.