Indonesia to Audit Mining Permits After New Laws


"The rules were softer than expected by environmentalists. . ."


Indonesia will audit over 8,000 existing mining permits to make sure they are in line with mining and environmental laws, the country's finance minister said on Monday, days after the country passed new regulations on environmental protection.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono last week signed a two-year moratorium on permits for logging and another decree allowing underground mining in protected forests if conditions such as an environmental assessment had been met.

The rules were softer than expected by environmentalists and it was not clear if the audit of permits would lead to any cancellations. Indonesia had already stopped issuing new mining permits ahead of mining regulations stemming from a 2008 law.

"There are many overlapping permits, and permits where it needs to be confirmed whether they are in line with mining practices in term of protecting the environment," said Finance Minister Agus Martowardodjo.

Higher commodity prices are attracting increased investment interest in mining metals such as nickel in Indonesia, despite red tape, poor infrastructure and corruption.

But the severe bottleneck in mining license issuance threatens further development of Indonesia's resources, executives have said.

Global miners with projects in Indonesia include Newmont Mining Corp, Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold and BHP Billiton. Indonesia is the world's top exporter of thermal coal and tin.

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