In a rare fatwa aimed at protecting the environment, the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) officially declared destructive mining operations as haram, or strictly forbidden, under Islamic law.
Under the edict that was signed on May 26 and announced on Wednesday, the MUI made it clear that mining companies are banned from denting both land and marine ecosystems; polluting water and air; destroying biodiversity; and causing poverty to nearby communities. “Mining operations that threaten public health is also forbidden,” the edict says.
The council said it issued the fatwa after receiving a question from the public on whether mining operations that damage the environment are allowed under Islamic law.
MUI deputy chairman Ma’ruf Amin dismissed suspicions that the council had been ordered by certain parties to issue such a fatwa. “It comes after long research,” he told a press conference at Jakarta’s Sultan Hotel on Wednesday. The event was attended by Environment Minister Gusti Muhammad Hatta.
The edict does not ban the operation of mining companies in the country as long they promote a green mining concept in extracting natural and mineral resources. Mining companies are required to comply with all regulations issued by central and local government, including environmental impact analyses (Amdal).
The feasibility studies to assess whether mining firms are eligible to secure permits should involve all stakeholders, including local communities.
It says the mining firms should reclaim, restore and rehabilitate any former mining land to ensure a sustainable environment for the prosperity of local communities.
The MUI recommended the central government to be more selective in awarding mining permits and seriously enforcing the law — whether with compensation (ta’widl) or punishments (ta’zir) against violators.
The central government should also review those permits awarded to companies that do not give direct benefit to the people.
The MUI called on lawmakers at the House of Representatives to amend the law linked to mining firms that benefit certain groups.
Meanwhile, the edict says local administrations should avoid giving monopolies to certain groups of mining companies, and should monitor reclamation of former mining land in their respective areas.
The mining companies should obey its obligations to pay alms.
Hatta hailed the fatwa on mining, calling it a “moral” movement from the ulemas that could speed up the recovery of ailing environmental areas in the country.
“The fatwa will strengthen positive law enforcement in its efforts to control environmental damage in the mining sector
He also said that the fatwa could boost efforts in implementing moral sanctions for all stakeholders, including environmental protection in the mining sector.
Indonesia has long suffered from deforestation due to illegal mining practices.
An joint investigation by the presidential judicial mafia taskforce and the Forestry Ministry found that “non-procedural” forest use by mining and plantation companies in the provinces of Central, East and West Kalimantan cost the state Rp 311.4 trillion (US$36.38 billion) in losses.
In East Kalimantan, for example, state losses were estimated at Rp 31.5 trillion, by 223 mining companies in an area of 774,520 hectares.
Minister Hatta and Forestry Minister Zulkifli Hasan, who have conducted several field trips to the three provinces, also found most small to medium-scale mining companies in operation are illegal, having not secured an Amdal document.
Activists have long criticized the government for its slow response in enforcing the law against illegal mining companies that destroy the environment.
A group of activists asked the State Administrative Court in Jakarta to overturn a decision by the Environment Ministry to permit PT Newmont Nusa Tenggara (NTT) to continue dumping its tailings into the sea.