A newly elected Indonesian governor has announced plans to end mining operations in his province, in an attempt to reform the region’s mining industry.

According to local media, Viktor Laiskodat, the newly inaugurated governor of the East Nusa Tenggara province has called a time-out on mining in his province, citing a lack of benefits for residents from the extractive industry.

Mr Laiskodat announced that mining only contributed 1 per cent to the economy of the province, which covers over 500 islands in the south of Indonesia and is home to 5 million people.

Additionally, the new governor also blamed mining for damaging small-scale agriculture and increasing the risks of floods and landslides.

Mr Laiskodat’s administration will no longer accept new mining licence applications and will reject applications that have already been made.

As quoted in Mongabay, Mr Laiskodat announced that he planned to “impose a moratorium on all kinds of mining, and this is a policy that will be implemented in the near future”.

The economic value of mining to the Indonesian economy has been in doubt, since the industry’s contribution to national GDP fell from $13.7bn in early 2015 to $12.7bn by the end of that year.

While the sector has seen a period of relatively stable growth since then, peaking at $13.4bn in August 2018, the closure of mines in the East Nusa Tenggara province has been popular with the locals, particularly considering the threat of environmental damage from mining operations in the past.

The Mining Advocacy Network (Jatam), reported in February 2018 that there were 309 mining licenses in force across East Nusa Tenggara, with 77 set to expire by the end of this year.

Mr Laiskodat’s measure would resonate with a national program to reform mining governance that was initiated in 2014 by the country’s antigraft agency, the mining ministry and the environment ministry. The initiative, called Korsup Minerba, was established to assess the legality of mining permits and determine whether they adhered to all relevant permitting and environmental laws.

April 2017 data from the energy ministry showed that 2,187 permits had been cancelled or their operational period had ended and not been extended. At the time, the total number of permits active in Indonesia was 8,524 mineral and coal mining permits. Of these, 2,522 were tagged as “not clean and clear,” indicating that a site assessment was lacking.

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