7 Sep 2009

Strengthening of Indonesia's environmental law enforcement could put spotlight on mines in Papua

5:53 am on 7 September 2009

The operators of major resource extraction projects in the Indonesian province of Papua could face tough criminal penalties if they are found to have caused excess levels of environmental pollution.

The Environmental Protection and Management Bill expected to be endorsed in Indonesia's House of Representatives this week would see polluters face a minimum prison sentence of three years with fines of up to a million US dollars.

The bill also provides for companies with a poor environmental performance rating to be punished directly with criminal charges rather than administrative sanctions.

Indonesian legislator Sonny Keraf, who is a former state minister for the environment, says that until now the Environment Ministry's enforcement of environmental laws has been weak.

"Before this new law, all those things were done by police and police have no knowledge about the environment. That's why so many cases in environmental areas are not prosecuted well. That's why we give new authority to the minister of environment to do all those things."

The bill stipulates that companies can be referred directly for prosecution by civil servant investigators.