The latest round in the battle to halt all mining in Indonesia’s protected forest areas seems to have been won by the environmentalists. This could affect, among other companies, BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto.
But it is unclear just how many projects will be affected by a proposed moratorium – and how effective it will be. At present, the draft rules propose a ban lasting only two years. Although  a government representative last week hinted that the moratorium might be extended, he also said that compensation to companies would come in the form of “land swaps”. Such “swaps” have been pioneered during the past ten years by Rio Tinto and Fauna and Flora International. So far, they have been used to justify mining in one ecologically sensitive area provided another one of equal merit is purchased and preserved. It is difficult to see how such an exchange would meet the requirement to reduce the overall impacts of extraction in a country such as Indonesia, where all mining has proved to be problematic.