Coal Mining in Indonesian Borneo Linked to Severe Flood
Mongabay.com reported that massive deforestation for coal mines may have exacerbated floods that recently inundated the eastern part of Indonesian
Mongabay.com reported that massive deforestation for coal mines may have exacerbated floods that recently inundated the eastern part of Indonesian Borneo, the country’s coal heartland. Fourteen villages in Berau district, East Kalimantan province, were flooded from May 13 to 18 after heavy rains battered the district, causing the Kelay and Segah rivers to burst their banks. Floodwater was as high as 2 meters inundated 2,507 houses. The local disaster mitigation agency called it the biggest flood in at least the last 10 years. The flood also caused the failure of a dike at a coal mine operated by PT Rantaupanjang Utama Bhakti on May 16, adding to the volume of floodwater.
The Mining Advocacy Network Jatam, an independent watchdog, said the flooding was likely exacerbated by the proliferation of coal mines in the region, both legal and illegal. Jatam identified 94 coal-mining concessions in Berau, 20 of them along the Kelay and Segah rivers. It says these companies have left a trail of destruction in their wake by failing to rehabilitate mining pits in their concessions. As of 2018, there were 123 coal mining pits in Berau. Jatam said “We suspect that the mining practices in the upstream areas of the Kelay River and the Segah River are the culprit behind the flood that happened this year in the district of Berau. Based on satellite imagery, it looks like there have been clearing and destruction of forests from the mining activity of Berau Coal in the upstream of the two rivers.”
The concession with the largest amount of abandoned pits, 45, is owned by PT Berau Coal. The 118,400-hectare concession, an area the size of Los Angeles, stretches from upstream of the Kelai River to the Segah River.
Provincial police have launched their own investigation to identify whether mining activity contributed to the scale of the disaster.