Wednesday, August 21, 2013

The Real Meaning of Sustainability, Part V

Part V: How Aceh Timur and the Leuser Ecosystem Intersect—the good, the bad, and the very scary

 Remember the Sun article in which Mr Dowie stated that in many cases indigenous and local communities were being forced out of their homes in and near rainforests in the name of “environmental protection?”  And that large “conservation NGOs, in order to obtain funds, brokered deals between governments and large corporations for the right to change the designation of protected forest to “production” forest, who make promises to conduct “green” and “environmentally sensitive” clear-cutting, mining, and palm oil agribusiness?

I wanted to find out exactly how much of Aceh Timur is covered by protected forest, and where specifically which parts of these forests our folks in Simpang Jernih are living near.  So my next hunt was for information on the Leuser Ecosystem, which I’ve talked about previously in this blog, as well as other national forests in the area.

  Here is Aceh Timur.  It is about 85 miles long at its longest point, and about 60 miles wide.


Here is the Leuser Ecosystem BOUNDARY, in yellow, which includes lots of Aceh Timur as you can see but the part that is in Aceh Timur is not classified as a “national park” and so I do not know if this means it is protected.  This is something we will have to find out.


Here is a little information from the Rainforest Action network on the Leuser Ecosystem.  (

Thousands of Indigenous communities rely on the forests of the Leuser Protected Ecosystem, a forest area on the island of Sumatra, Indonesia, for their lives and livelihoods. It is also the last place on Earth where endangered species like the Sumatran orangutan and the Sumatran tiger coexist with elephants, rhinos, and Sunbears.

A sun bear.  Cute as buttons.

But the government of Aceh, the province in which the Leuser Protected Ecosystem lies, is considering a plan that would remove large regions of forest from the protected area, opening them up to palm oil and pulp plantations, logging, mining, and all of the roads and other infrastructure that come with them. The Indonesian government is now considering the plan, and has the power to reject it.

Well, this was news, so I followed that thread and found that this has happened quite recently: April of 2013 is when the story was picked up by many papers, including the Guardian:

A Toronto-listed mining company says it is working closely with the Indonesian government to strip the protected status of some 1.6 million hectares forest on the island of Sumatra.

In a statement issued Tuesday, East Asia Minerals Corporation (TSX:EAS) claimed it is actively involved in the process of devising a new spatial plan for Aceh province, Sumatra's western-most province. The proposed changes to the spatial plan, which governs land use in the province, would re-zone large areas of protected forest in Aceh for industrial activities, including nearly a million hectares for mining, 416,086 ha for logging, and 256,250 ha for oil palm plantations.

"The company is working closely with government officials in the country and have company representatives on the ground in Aceh to obtain reclassification of the forestry zone from 'protected forest' to 'production forest'," East Asia Minerals said in a press release announcing the potential implications for its Miwah gold mining project. "Once forestry designation has been reclassified, the company will be granted the ability to continue the drilling program with the goal of expanding the resource at Miwah."

East Asia Minerals added that it "has implemented a new Corporate Social Responsibility program and hired ex-government officials to help them with these efforts." It also noted that the length of the reclassification "is primarily due to dealing with a coalition of environmental groups, and NGOs."

 Which NGO’s, I wonder???  Which environmental groups?

Miwah, it turns out, is in Pidie  District, of which Sigli is the Capital.  Pidie is northwest of Aceh Timur.  However, I’d just like to point out that the Smithsonian Volcano site lists Sigli as a Regency (district), which it is not.  Miwah is “ located near Seulawah Agam and Burni Telong volcanoes. The crater believed to be active resides SE of one of the peaks of the lava dome (Mount Tutung). This narrow crater has a diameter of about 70 m and a depth of 80 m.”

Okay, so this intensive and horrific mining project is not quite in Aceh Timur, but that does not mean we should all be complacent about it; JMD has worked in Pidie before and this is just as catastrophic for communities in those remote areas.

Before we turn to what I think is the best of the articles regarding this, I wanted to print a little info on the East Aceh Minerals Corporation.  Their website is shut down and they have no official statement on line about anything they do.  However, what they exist for solely is evident in articles written about them, like the one below:

About East Asia Minerals Corporation
East Asia Minerals is an Asian-based, Canadian mineral exploration company with gold and copper exploration properties in Indonesia. The Company has a 70 to 85 percent interest in three advanced gold and gold-copper properties located in Aceh Province, Sumatra, and Sangihe Island, North Sulawesi. The company's Miwah project in Aceh Province has an NI 43-101 compliant inferred resource of 3.14 million ounces of gold and 8.95 million ounces of silver. This is based on an estimated 103.9 million tonne resource averaging 0.94 grams per tonne of gold and 2.68 grams per tonne of silver using 0.20 grams per tonne gold cut-off. East Asia Minerals' shares are listed for trading on the TSX Venture Exchange under the symbol "EAS".

Frank Rocca, AusIMM, Vice President Exploration of the Company, and a qualified person under National Instrument 43-101, has reviewed and approved the scientific and technical information in this press release.
For further information, visit the Company's website at (website is shut down)

Michael Bacherland wrote a compelling, informative article on this situation for the Sydney Morning Herald (April 18, 2013) and I must write to him and see if he has a follow up, because there does not seem to be any more information on line after this April series of “exposes.”

Indonesian forest open for mining, logging
Michael Bachelard , Indonesia correspondent for Fairfax Media

Commercial exploitation: Forests in Aceh are being cleared for mining. Photo: Michael Bachelard

A mining company has boasted of an Indonesian government decision to free up 1.2 million hectares of virgin forest in Aceh for commercial exploitation.

The announcement to the Canadian stock exchange late on Tuesday was met with disbelief by environmental groups worried about endangered orang-utans, Sumatran tigers, rhinos and elephants across the heavily forested region.

But Ed Rochette, chief executive of Canadian mining company East Asia Minerals, celebrated the ''good progress and positive news for mineral extraction in the area''.

The company's announcement quotes Anwar, chairman of the Aceh government's spatial planning committee, as saying the Indonesian forestry ministry had accepted ''almost 100 per cent of the province's new spatial plan'' that would ''zone large blocks of previously protected forest for mineral extraction, timber concessions and oil palm plantations''.

Aceh has the most forest cover of any province in Sumatra, which lost 36 per cent of its forests in the past 20 years,'' the release says. ''The new spatial plan would grant nearly 1 million hectares of land for mining, 416,086 for logging and 256,250 hectares for palm oil.

'The plan would also approve an extensive new network of roads through protected forests.''

Mr Rochette said his company was ''working closely with government officials [in Indonesia] and have company representatives in Aceh to obtain reclassification … from 'protected forest' to 'production forest'.''

The company's Miwah gold concession is in a ''protected forest'' and the company is lobbying for approval for an open-pit mine.

Ian Singleton, of the Sumatran Orang-utan Conservation Program, said the news was ''devastating''. Logging and palm oil concessions would want to operate in increasingly scarce lowland forest ''where the densities of tigers, orang-utans and elephants live'', he said.

''They've been arguing for protected forest to be made into production forest, which is obscene.''

Another environmental expert in Aceh, Graham Usher, warned of ''all sorts of environmental issues for communities downstream''.

It’s near Peuet Sagua seems like Aceh Tenggara, very near Takengon

Coordinates 4°54′50″N 96°19′44″E / 4.914°N 96.329°E  20 miles from the coast;

So for those of you who want to join me down the rabbit hole, here is information on Peuet Sague:

Peuet Sague is a volcanic complex in the northwest of Sumatra, Indonesia. The name peuet in Acehnese language means square in English. The location of the volcanic complex is isolated that needs several journeys on foot from the nearest village to reach the mountain. There are four summits in the complex that all of them are located in the Sigli Regency, Aceh Province. One of the lava dome is called Mount Tutung and it has 70 metres (230 feet) diameter and 80 meters (262.5 feet) deep of an active crater.

I know that this is all happening a bit to the west of Aceh Timur, but how these incursions are being choreographed and how officials are going about it bears scrutiny.  Forexample, 24HourGold’s website, interested only in what can be extracted from the area, reports that

The Miwah Property is in a very similar volcanic setting to the Martabe gold-silver deposit, also located in North Sumatra (Purnama and Baskara resources: 127.8 million tonnes at 1.4 g/t gold (5.5 million ounces gold) and 15 g/t silver (60 million ounces silver), and the alteration system is of a comparable size. Miwah also exhibits a likeness to the size, style and geometry of the alteration system developed at the Pierina gold deposit in Peru (67.7 Mt grading 2.98 g/t gold and 22 g/t silver, giving a total 6.49 million ounces gold and 47.9 million ounces silver).

But they are reporting on this drilling in 2010, way before any compact was signed!!!  All these “agreements,” then, seem to be just decoration.  Mining and forest destruction has been going on for quite some time, one would assume, and has not been limited to just this area.

Here's some nice bureaucratic language on how to do corporate work in a protected forest:
Industrial tree plantation (ITP) concessions.

An ITP concession is a right granted by a government to develop an area of land into an industrial monoculture timber plantation (e.g. Acacia mangium, Hevea or Eucalyptus spp.). In Indonesia, ITP permits are issued by the Indonesian Ministry of Forestry on lands classified as ‘production forests’. Production forests’ (HPH Hutan Produksi<300 asl="" em="" m="">. and HPT Hutan Produksi Terbatas>300–500 m asl) comprise areas allocated for commercial logging, where conversion to another land-use is prohibited. However, the conversion of natural forests to timber plantations is not recognized as deforestation by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change because tree plantations are legally defined as ‘forest’ [38]. In Sarawak and Sabah, ITP permits are issued by the Forestry Department on lands classified as Commercial Forest Reserves (equivalent to Indonesia's production forests). In Sarawak, maps of industrial timber plantation concessions (called Reforestation Licenses, LPF) current as of 2008 were obtained from the Bruno Manser fund report in pdf format [39], scanned and digitized in ArcGIS. For Sabah, maps of Industrial tree plantations (called ITPs) were obtained from digitised Landsat 2000 data (derived from WWF Germany).

Logging concessions in natural forests.

Companies possessing logging concession licenses have the right to extract natural timber from natural forests. Deforestation (or open clearing) is prohibited in logging concessions, as timber should be extracted in a sustainable manner. For Kalimantan, maps of logging concessions were obtained from the national spatial planning agency (BAPLAN) of the Ministry of Forestry, in 1:250,000 scale and in digital format. The maps are current as of 2009–2010. For Sabah, a map of ‘production forest’ areas partitioned into forest management units was obtained from the Sabah Forestry Department. For Sarawak, maps of logging concessions for year 1996 were obtained from the Bruno Manser Fund report in pdf format [39], scanned and digitized in ArcGIS. In the absence of official up-to-date government maps for Sarawak, we cannot verify the accuracy of the logging concession map we used in our analysis.

Oh, we’re not done by any means.

Next: More on Leuser and Aceh Timur, plus: The Jakarta Post warned of Illegal logging in the rainforest  a month before the mining story appeared


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