BHP and Leighton Holdings to drive deforestation and mining in Indonesian Borneo’s rainforests

Media Release: 7th November 2013

Friends of the Earth (FoE) has today called on BHP Billiton , Leighton Holdings, the Australian government and the World Bank to pull back on its plans for a massive expansion of coal mining in the Upper Barito Basin, a remote part of Indonesia’s forested province of Central Kalimantan.  

“In a region that boasts rainforests of global significance for their biodiversity, and supports hundreds of thousands of people living and farming on the catchment downstream, the current push to open up Central Kalimantan’s forests to potentially one of the largest coal mines on the planet should be a serious cause for concern among Australians and Indonesians alike” said Nick McClean, Climate Justice spokesperson with FoE Australia.

BHP plans to open its massive Indomet project in late 2014. The 7 concessions included in the project have coal assets equivalent to approximately 2.5 times Australia’s total annual coal exports, and will require the support of the Australian government, which has authorised a $150 million loan and guarantee to controversy wracked Leighton Holdings to provide mine services and labour on the project. In a further acknowledgement of the scale of BHPs plans, the World Bank has approved a guarantee for a $3.2bn 385km long rail link that will connect the remote Upper Barito basin with export markets, despite its recent recognition coal energy would be phased out from its development assistance. The Bank’s support for Kalimantan’s export coal means more expanded coal power in India and China.

“We have been witnessing the expansion of Indonesia as a major coal exporter for many years, but BHPs plans will take the clearing of our forests and the export of heavily polluting coal to a whole new level” said Pius Ginting, National Energy and Mining Campaigner with WALHI (Indonesian Forum for the Environment/FoE Indonesia).

“Coal is simply no longer suitable as an energy source given the damage it causes. We call on BHP and Leighton to abandon their plans, and for the World Bank to come good on its promises and stop funding coal energy.”

Members of WALHI are currently in Australia on a 10 day speaking tour to raise awareness about Indomet and to highlight the voices of local communities impacted by mining.

“In my home village, we have already seen the destructive effects of gold mining occurring in the Barito Basin. If BHP continues with its plans for open cut mines, it will be a disaster for the local people, and it will be a disaster for these fragile ecosystems. The Barito watershed area is a source of life for residents, it’s a home for thousands of traditional landowners. If the project continues, it will threaten these peoples way of life and it will threaten the river” said Arie Rompas, Executive director of WALHI Central Kalimantan branch.   

Already protests from local communities are emerging, with one community removed from their customary lands on 3 separate occasions to make way for the global resource giant.

“Having our WALHI colleagues here is a unique chance for Australians to hear of BHPs secretive plans from people who have witnessed first hand the impacts of foreign investment in destruction of the environment. These plans will without doubt have a serious impact on the Upper Barito Basin, and make a massive contribution to global carbon emissions” Nick McClean, FoEA.

Members of WALHI and FoEA will be travelling to Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne to hold public meetings about these plans for expansion.

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Media enquiries Nick McClean 0415 775 531