Impacted Communities Write to Investors and Demand Indominco Mandiri To Be Responsible for Alleged Pollution of Palakan-Santan Rivers of East Kalimantan

SANTAN/EAST KALIMANTAN, September 26th, 2021 – On the commemoration of #WorldRiverDay 2021, residents of Santan Village, Kutai Kartanegara Regency unfurled a banner urging investors affiliated with PT Indominco Mandiri (PT.IMM) namely Banpu, Employees Provident Fund and BPJS Employment to be responsible for the alleged pollution of Santan river.

Two days earlier, September 24th 2021, Tani Muda Santan with JATAM Kaltim, JATAM Nasional, Trend Asia and the #BersihkanIndonesia movement had sent a letter to 106 investors and shareholders of PT Indo Tambangraya Megah Tbk (ITMG), parent company of PT IMM.

The letter contains an urge to investors to evaluate their investment policies in PT ITMG, who’s affiliated with PT IMM which is suspected to have polluted the Santan River. The letter is also accompanied by the latest report by JATAM and the #BersihkanIndonesia movement entitled “Killing the River: How Indominco Mandiri Coal Mining Leaves a Deadly Legacy and Poisons Water of Palakan-Santan Rivers in East Kalimantan” revealing the findings of alleged pollution, violations of water and wastewater quality standards, the disappearance of endemic biota in Santan and Palakan rivers. [2] The presence of this coal mine has also increased the intensity of flooding as well as concerns about the risk of environmental impacts and the safety of residents from the presence of 53 ex-mining pits with a total area of 2,823.73 ha, equivalent to 32 times the area of ​​ Palaran Sports Stadium in Samarinda, East Kalimantan. These toxic coal mine pits are planned to be inherited and charged to the government authorities and local residents.

PT IMM is the holder of a Coal Mining Concession Contract of Work (PKP2B) since 11 November 1998 with a concession area of ​​24,121 ha. The contract period is valid until 2028 in Kutai Kartanegara Regency, Bontang City and East Kutai Regency, East Kalimantan Province.

According to the latest report by JATAM and the #BersihkanIndonesia movement, there will be at least 53 mining pits until the expiration of PT IMM’s PKP2B permit in 2028. The mining pits are spread across the company’s west and east blocks. Including the mine pit containing toxic water in Pit L11N1 with an area of ​​53.05 ha which is not being restored as required by the regulations.

In total, there are 15 settling ponds or coal mining waste storage ponds owned by PT IMM. Three settling ponds are spread over the west block and 12 settling ponds in the east block. Six settling ponds found in the east block which drain their wastewater into Palakan River and then empties into Santan River. Three settling ponds in the west block flow into Kare River and 2 settling ponds flow into Mayang River. All of which flows into Santan River. JATAM team then carried out investigation in one of the settling ponds where wastewater flows to the Palakan River and empties into Santan River. The team chose the SP-34 settling pond, which is the closest holding pond from Pit 19D in the east block, to be the inspection location.

According to Theresia Jari from JATAM Kaltim research team, water samples were taken at three locations. The first point is in the settling pond flow or SP-34 waste water collection pond, the second point is in the water body of Palakan River, and the third point is at the estuary of Palakan River, where it is connected to the Santan River.

At the three sampling points, the average level of water acidity or pH is very acidic. After being tested, the acidity reached 2.57 (point 1), 2.73 (point 2) and 2.69 (point 3). The test results also found that the level of heavy metal, iron (Fe), reached 3 times the quality standard threshold (point 1), then 7 times (point 2) and 16 times (point 3). Likewise, levels of manganese (Mn) were found reached 4 times (point 1), 28 times (point 2) and 29 times the quality standard threshold, including spikes in Total Dissolved Solid (TDS).

From the three sampling points and the results of the water quality test based on the parameters of the East Kalimantan Regional Regulation No. 02 of 2011 and Government Regulation no. 82 of 2001 concerning Water Quality Management and Water Pollution Control, it can be concluded that PT Indominco Mandiri (IMM) has violated the two regulations above.

“Therefore, JATAM team found that PT IMM had failed in carrying out environmental management. Likewise, if referring to PT IMM’s Environmental Management Plan document, there are a number of agencies mentioned in the document that must be responsible for supervision and are also negligent in carrying out supervision,” said Theresia Jari, a research team from JATAM East Kalimantan.

“For people living along Palakan and Santan Rivers ecosystems, rivers are not only sources of livelihood and production for the community from the fisheries and coconut plantation economy. Rivers are closely related to their own identity and history, for example, the naming of three villages starting from Santan Hulu Village, Santan Tengah Village and Santan Hilir Village all use names based on the river flow in each area,” said Taufik Iskandar, a resident and chairman of Kelompok Tani Muda Santan.

JATAM, Tani Muda Santan, #BersihkanIndonesia movement and Tani Muda Santan urged 106 investors affiliated with PT IMM to evaluate their share ownership policies in PT IMTG. The three investors and shareholders who were exposed include the Employees Provident Fund (EPF), which is a pension fund company that manages workers’ funds, based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and the Social Security Council (DJS) of the Pension Plan (JHT) which is affiliated with the National Social Security Agency (BPJS). If there is no evaluation, then the three big companies can be said to have contributed to the destruction of the environment and the climate crisis in East Kalimantan and even Indonesia,” said Merah Johansyah, National JATAM Coordinator.

“We urge that the findings of the investigation in this report be followed up by the government according to its authority, by conducting audits, evaluating, and imposing sanctions, and enforcing the law. We also urge the central government and the Province of East Kalimantan not to continue with the extension of PT IMM’s contract in 2028,” concluded the JATAM East Kalimantan Coordinator, Pradarma Rupang.

River pollution due to coal mining activities does not only occur in Santan and Palakan rivers. JATAM found at least 206 coal mining concessions overlapping, intersecting and located within a radius of under 500 meters from 97 rivers on Sumatra Island and similarly as many as 553 concessions in 232 rivers and streams on Kalimantan Island, said Merah Johansyah, National JATAM Coordinator.

The UN’s Code RED for Climate and Humanitarian Crisis has been announced. Indonesia must immediately leave the coal industry as a major contributor to the global climate crisis. The impact of climate change has been felt in various parts of the earth, including in places where investors and proponents of the coal industry are based. It is important for investors and proponents of the coal industry to know, wherever they are, that this crisis–that is starting to be felt widely–has been felt by residents and other living beings for a long time in mining locations to coal power plants, such as in East Kalimantan.

“This World River Day is a great time for investors to be aware of the hidden consequences of their investments, and to re-evaluate their involvement. PT. ITMG’s investors and coal proponents have a choice: whether to continue to be involved in ‘killing’ river ecosystems, or start reviving them by starting to abandon coal to reverse the climate crisis,” said Ahmad Ashov Birry, Coordinator of the #BersihkanIndonesia movement.


Editor’s Note:

  1. Letter to Investors
  2. Report — Killing the River: How Indominco Mandiri Coal Mining Leaves a Deadly Legacy and Poisons Water of Palakan-Santan Rivers in East Kalimantan:
  3. Photo of today action :


Media Contacts:

  • Taufik Iskandar, Resident and Head of Tani Muda Santan, +62 822-5044-0653
  • Pradarma Rupang, Coordinator of JATAM East Kalimantan,  +62 852-5050-9899
  • Merah Johansyah, Coordinator of JATAM National, +62 813-4788-2228
  • Ahmad Ashov Birry, Coordinator of the #BersihkanIndonesia movement, +62 811-1757-246