in Indonesia, West Papua

PT Austindo Nusantara Jaya’s ongoing forest destruction for palm oil in West Papua

PT Austindo Nusantara Jaya Tbk (ANJ) is an Indonesian palm oil company, with a land bank of more than 140,000 hectares. Of this the plantable area is 96,528 hectares, of which 44,143 hectares has so far been planted. The company is currently clearing forest in West Papua to make way for a further 40,500 hectares of oil palm plantations.

ANJ has other operations, including sago plantations, geothermal energy, a coal fired power station, and tobacco processing. This post focusses on ANJ’s planned palm oil operations in West Papua, and the clearing of intact forest areas by two of ANJ’s subsidiaries.

In its 2013 Annual Report, ANJ announces that,

2013 was a busy year of expansion for ANJ, starting with the acquisition of two palm oil landbank properties totalling 65,159 hectares in West Papua in January.

A recent report by Greenomics Indonesia notes that ANJ is planning to spend US$12 million on clearing forest in Papua over the next three years. The report also notes that in the period 2008-2013, ANJ was a “permanent supplier” to Wilmar, the world’s biggest palm oil company.

Here’s a chronology relating to the ongoing deforestation for ANJ’s oil palm plantations in Papua:

  • 19 May 2011: Indonesia’s President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono signed a moratorium on new forest concessions, as part of the Indonesia-Norway US$1 billion REDD deal.
  • 21 December 2011: The Minister of Forestry issued a forest land relinquishment permit to PT Permata Putera Mandiri (PPM) for oil palm plantations, covering 34,147 hectares in South Sorong Regency, West Papua province.
  • 31 October 2012: The Minister of Forestry issued a forest land relinquishment permit to PT Putera Manunggal Perkasa (PMP) for oil palm plantations, covering 23,424 hectares adjacent to PPM’s concession.
  • January 2013: ANJ bought PPM and PMP.
  • December 2013: Wilmar committed to a no deforestation policy.

In its report, Greenomics Indonesia points out that ANJ has been clearing “intact forest landscapes [in West Papua] since the closing months of 2013”. The company’s subsidiaries PPM and PMP have set up “an operations base for land clearance”, called “The Hexagon”. Here’s what it looks like – note the intact forest surrounding the cleared area:

Greenomics Indonesia uses data from Global Forest Watch to show that about 67% of the concession areas consists of intact forest landscapes. A series of Landsat 8 satellite images shows how the area deforested has increased near to “The Hexagon” from November 2013 to April 2014:

ANJ’s deforestation to make way for oil palm plantations in Papua raises important questions:

  • Why did the Minister of Forestry award the two concessions to PPM and PMP after the moratorium was signed into force by Indonesia’s President?
  • What action will the Indonesian and Norwegian governments take, given that the concessions appear to be clearly in breach of the moratorium (at least the areas of the concessions that Global Forest Watch’s data show as intact forest)?
  • What action will Wilmar take? As Greenpeace commented when Wilmar announced its no deforestation policy, “Wilmar must be judged on its actions, not just its words”.

Greenomics Indonesia uncovered an interesting twist in this tale of forest destruction in West Papua. George Tahija is a commissioner of ANJ and a member of both The Nature Conservancy (TNC) Indonesia Chapter Advisory Board and the TNC Asia Pacific Council. As Greenomics Indonesia points out, many would question how Tahija can be simultaneously involved in a company that is destroying forests and an organisation that is supposed to protect forests.

Greenomics Indonesia suggests that TNC should use its “special access” to Tahija to prevent the ongoing forest destruction and that,

TNC needs to explain the steps that it proposes to take in connection with George Tahija role as a member of the TNC Indonesia Chapter Advisory Board and the TNC Asia Pacific Council having regard to his position as a commissioner and shareholder of ANJT, a company that plans to continue clearing intact forest landscapes in Papua until 2017 for the purpose of developing new palm oil plantations.


PHOTO Credit (top): ANJ’s oil palm plantations in West Kalimantan, from the company’s 2013 Annual Report.

Leave a Reply

  1. What the big leakage..

    The ANJ has a concession on wild Sago extraction with about 20,000 ha in South Sorong (West Papua Province). Its seems that Sago just an entry point to wash their name while the main target is Land for Oilpalm since the Sago industry are not going well until Now. Exactly bordered to it is another Oilpalm concession belong to Rajawali group that potential expanding into some swamp areas nearest to the cost.

    Any suggestion how to advocate it?

  2. PT Permata Putera Mandiri is a member of the RSPO, and has been since December 2011. It got it’s IUP (plantation operation permit) in South Sorong, West Papua, in June 2010, so would certainly need to comply with the RSPO’s 2010 New Plantings Procedure, which requires any development of the concession to be suspended until HCVF and SEIAs are conducted, and published for comment on the RPSO website. The firm failed to submit an ACOP filing with the RSPO in 2013. I can see no evidence of any NPP documentation reports or a notification on the NPP part of the RSPO website for this firm. So, it appears they have cleared without submitting any NPP documents, in direct breach of the RSPO NPP.

    The question is, why has the RSPO not noticed this?

    PT Putera Manunggal Perkasa does not appear to be a direct member of the RSPO, but through Austindo’s RSPO membership, should implement the RSPO standard too, including the NPP. Again, no NPP documents appear to have been submitted in relation to PT Putera Manunggal Perkasa. With Austindo having purchased these two estates in January 2013, one wonders how much of the forest clearance to date is non-compliant with the RSPO P&C, or the Statements/commitments Austindo has made about adhering to the RSPO standard.

    Under the RSPO, all development in both concessions should now be immediately ceased until HCVF and SEIA documents forming part of an independent NPP compliance audit is transparently reported to stakeholders comments on the RSPO website. If this does not happen, the RSPO is a very, very leaky bucket indeed.

    But don’t hold your breath. EIA has been waiting for more than 9 months for the RSPO to rule on a grievance sent in October 2013 concerning another Sorong, West Papua-based oil palm concession. Nearly half of all grievances submitted to the RSPO since the NPP came into force have been for NPP non-compliances…

  3. The governments of the EC, the USA and Australia – which prohibit illegal wood-based products – should formally write to the governments of Indonesia and the probable initial export destinations of wood which derives from these forest clearance operations (indeed all logging, wherever in that part of Papua which is controlled by Indonesia) – including China, to advise that products made at least partly from such wood might well be prohibited from their internal markets (due to their implicit illegality).

  4. Though it doesnt make it in any way right, and it certainly appears to be in breach of RSPO (as Jago explains), I dont believe this case involves any breach of the moratorium. The moratorium is on the issuance of new licenses for oil palm plantations. A forest land release does not constitute a new license for an oil palm plantation. The Forest land release is issued to existing oil palm licensees. So these two subsidiaries almost certainly had their oil palm concession licenses already in place prior to the moratorium. Greenomics have probably confirmed this already, since their report makes no claim about a moratorium breach. Of course this case does demonstrate the limitations of the moratorium, however, even if it does not provide information on compliance with it. The limitations in how the moratorium was defined are probably a greater problem.

  5. A Mongabay article now reports that ANJT has since admitted that these operations do indeed breach the RSPO’s NPP requirements, and that all activities on site will be stopped pending NPP surveys. (Source: Just goes to show that if you call a spade a spade, the spade will sometimes admit to it.

    Worryingly, the Mongabay article quotes ANJT as saying that RSPO certification remains the group’s “main focus”, and that they believe the RSPO is enough to meet Wilmar’s “no deforestation, no peat, no exploitation” policy.

    Well, firstly the RSPO P&C fall far short of the no-deforestation element of Wilmar’s policy, because the RSPO standard happily accepts conversion of forests to oil palm plantations. So, it seems ANJT will fall foul of Wilmar’s policy, whether RSPO compliant or otherwise.

    Secondly, if RSPO certification is ANJT’s “main focus”, surely Group management need their eye sight checked, because they allowed these firms to blindly violate the most basic RSPO standards on day one.

    Investors must be worried.

    Not only does a firm “committed” to the RSPO as it’s “main focus” immediately wander into RSPO non-compliance, but the very rational to aspire to RSPO certification seems likely to exclude it from doing business with it’s main trading partner…