Indonesia is a significant miner of coal, copper, gold, tin, bauxite, and nickel. Recent research has found that direct drivers of deforestation in Indonesia are spatially and temporally dynamic. While by far not as important a deforestation driver as agribusiness, mining activities are responsible for an increasing share in deforestation in recent years. This role is linked to the direct land use of the mining activities. Indirectly, mining activities facilitate new settlements and economic activities around large and small mining sites. These deforestation impacts are limited and isolated yet regionally significant.
Mining in Indonesia is also linked to widespread contamination of natural water systems. This has, for example, been observed in rivers around the giant Grasberg mine in Papua, one of the world’s largest gold and copper mines, and in relation to the ocean tailings disposal by the Batu Hijau gold and copper mine in West Nusa Tenggara. In early 2021, the Indonesian government halted the issuance of permits for deep-sea tailings disposal for new nickel smelters. However, the alternative on-land waste management options are linked to large-scale land use and connected conflicts, forest loss and the risks from being in areas prone to be affected by earthquakes, tsunamis, landslides and floods.
Interestingly, out of the top-10 largest oil palm plantation companies in Indonesia, at least six also have substantial mining operations. Next to the government-owned PTPN these are Sinar Mas (palm oil plantations under Golden Agri-Resources), Salim Group (Indofood Agri Resources), Jardine Matheson/Astra (Astra Agro Lestari), KPN Corp (KPN Plantation), and Harita Group (Bumitama Agri).