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Borneo, Environment, Indonesia

Resentment lingers in village ‘tricked’ over land

Eren Frid

Former head of Maruwei village assembly Eren Frid, who passed away in 2015. Photo: Jenny Denton

Jakarta Globe, 14 June 2015
Residents of the village of Maruwei in Central Kalimantan claim they were tricked and intimidated in relation to BHP Billiton’s acquisition of an area of their land for the first stage of the IndoMet coal project a decade ago.

According to Maruwei village secretary Timor Banafi, villagers started clearing small trees and shrubs from an area of their customary forest which was to be compulsorily acquired for the mine because they believed they would be entitled to compensation for it if there was evidence the land was being cultivated.

Then at a meeting in 2005 a BHP Billiton community relations officer gave them the impression the company would pay more for land that was also cleared of trees.

Although the company representative did not explicitly mention payment and in fact told villagers he was not advising them to cut down trees on the land, which would be illegal, he said BHP would be “more appreciative” of land that was logged, which would “make things easier” for the company, Banafi told the Jakarta Globe last year.

After the meeting, more than 70 Maruwei families spent months cutting trees and clearing vegetation from a total area of 1,600 hectares, according to Banafi, and while BHP was aware of the land-clearing going on, the company did nothing for several months, after which it reported the activity to government authorities.

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