From: Associated Press
Published July 7, 2005 12:00 AM

Indonesian Court Rules Mining Companies Can Operate in Protected Forests

JAKARTA, Indonesia — Thirteen mining companies will be able to operate in protected forests in Indonesia after the country's highest court Thursday rejected a petition by environmental groups claiming the practice was illegal.


The Constitutional Court ruled the 13 companies, which media reports said included local and foreign outfits, should be allowed to mine in the forests because they had signed contracts to do so before a 1999 law banned the practice.


"The sanctity of the contracts must be upheld," said the court's head Jimmy Asshiddiqie, while delivering the verdict.


The immediate repercussions of the ruling were not immediately clear. The companies affected by it were not named in the verdict, a copy of which was obtained by The Associated Press.


However, environmental groups who filed the petition claimed that it would lead to further degradation of Indonesia's forests, already under threat from illegal logging, slash-and-burn agriculture and urban expansion.


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"It is very disappointing," said Yayat Afianto, from Telepak, a prominent forestry conservation group. "Allowing mining in protected forests means that they will be spoiled for ever. The only virgin forests we have left are protected ones."


The government in 1999 banned mining in protected forests, which Telepak estimates account for some 8.68 million hectares (21.5 million acres) across the country. However, the government passed an emergency law in 2004 allowing companies with pre-existing contracts to resume operations.


Thursday's ruling concerned the legality of that law.


Source: Associated Press


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