Cement producer PT Semen Padang is proposing the conversion of a forest reserve spanning 249ha near its plant in Indarung, Padang city, West Sumatra to obtain raw materials for cement production.
The company has the backing of the West Sumatra governor and is seeking a permit from the Forestry Ministry for a change in land use.
The company’s managing director, Endang Irsal, said the 249ha area, which is situated in a conservation forest rich in limestone, was of great significance for its reserve supplies of raw materials for the next 80 years.
Endang said the change of land function was feasible in line with the 1999 Forestry Law.
"We will convey this to the House of Representatives to be deliberated. I hope the House and the Forestry Ministry will respond to the matter well, especially when this involves public interests. The West Sumatra governor fully supports the plan and has sent a letter to the forestry minister on Sept. 20," said Irsal.
The proposed change of land function only emerged when the company was acquiring land owned by the Lubuk Kilangan traditional community, which is located next to the factory site, spanning 612 ha. However, during the payment process of the remaining 412 ha, it became clear that 249 ha had been zoned as a conservation area.
"We need a new source of raw material. The source we are using at present will only last for the next 15 years. To expand the new factory, we must have a minimal reserve supply of over 30 years. But it turns out the area which contains limestone deposits is included in the conservation area. Therefore, we need the governor’s support to resolve the issue in Jakarta," said Irsal.
According to Hart, the forestry minister had issued a circular on Sept. 29 to governors, regents and mayors throughout the country banning the use of conservation forests for mining activities, roads, residential areas and farming activities.
"But, we should also look at this matter in a holistic manner, because cement production is also for the welfare of the people and regions. We must also study the effects of the change in land status from a conservation area into an area for other uses. In order to change it, a decision is needed from the House of Representatives first," Hart said.
He said out of the 249-ha conservation area, 60 ha is included in Aro Hilir Nature Reserve and the remaining is enclosed in the Bukit Barisan Forest Reserve.
"The change of status from conservation forest to mining will obviously have an impact on the environment, such as animals, forest and catchment areas around it. We must study the potential damage to the environment, including the requirement of a buffer zone of around 100 meters from the proposed mining area," he said.