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What happens when more than a million hectares of protected Sumatran rainforest stand in the way of mining development? For East Asia Minerals Corporation, the answer is to remove those protections.

Reports the Globe and Mail, the Vancouver-based company announced that the Indonesian government is close to opening 1.2 million hectares of rainforest in the Aceh province of Indonesia to mining, logging and palm oil plantations. The company is “working closely with government officials in the country and have company representatives on the ground in Aceh to obtain reclassification of the forestry zone from 'protected forest' to 'production forest,'” boasts a press release.

These forests are protected for a reason.  They are one of the last remaining swaths of rich biodiversity in the world, and home to elephants, rhinos and orangutans. In addition, because this ecosystem is not suited for such activities, under the reclassification local communities would have to contend with environmental disasters such as landslides.

Outraged, area conservation organizations, including Greenpeace, the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme and Earthworks partner Walhi are working to keep these protections in place.

The brazen move from East Asia Minerals violates a basic principle of responsible mining (including one of No Dirty Gold's' Golden Rules) – no mining in a protected area. Convincing Indonesia to change this tropical forest's legal classification will not change this.

Worse, this is not the only mining company employing this tactic. Australian mining company Cokal has also been reported to dispute protected statuses in Indonesia, and reports of governments' handing out mining permits in protected areas abound in countries from India to New Zealand.

We will keep our supporters updated as this story unfolds — because this legal wrangling has national and international repercussions to the public interest.

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