>> Thousands of mines shutting down across Indonesia's coal belt as prices drop and deposits run dry. Samarinda is ground zero for a boom that made Indonesia the world's biggest thermal coal exporter but today, it's a scored and toxic landscape. Abandoned pits are death traps for children who swim in them and pollution is poisoning rice paddies.
Activists blame the government for not pushing mining companies to play by the rules. Reuters Fergus Jensen visited Samarinda to learn more.>> There's more than 3,000 mining permits that are already known to be not compliant with basic mining rules. For example they haven't paid royalties, their concessions overlap, so NGOs are pushing for the government to revoke those permits, and that's a good start.
But then they can go in and start looking at the other issues like mine reclamation and fixing up the areas that have been damaged through mining activities.>> Billions of dollars for land repair are owed by thousands of mining companies in the area. But extracting payment could be tough.
Many of the companies have gone bankrupt or simply abandoned their operations and can't afford the costs of cleaning up.>> The question of how it's gonna be paid for, where the money is gonna come from. What punishments are gonna be imposed and when and how, all of this stuff needs to be answered.
>> The provincial government is threatening to punish companies which have failed to restore the land and has stopped issuing new licenses. But environmental watchdogs say that's not enough and that the companies just keep right on mining regardless.