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Indonesia ups the ante on granite

12 March 2007

BATAM: A second Indonesian navy commander has urged his country's government to impose a ban on the export of granite, barely weeks after Jakarta halted the sale of sand to other countries.

According to Antara news agency, the commander of the Indonesian Navy's Western Fleet, Junior Marshal Mulyono, said over the weekend that Jakarta should impose a granite export ban because of the impact granite mining has had on the environment.

"If the impact (on the environment) is similar (to sand mining), we should also impose similar regulations on granite," he said.

This latest call for a granite ban echo earlier calls by the Commander of Tanjung Pinang Naval Base, First Marshal Among Margono, who was reported to have also proposed a ban to the central government, while Indonesian State Minister of Environment Rachmat Witoelar was quoted by the Batam Pos last week as saying that the proposal had been approved at the Cabinet level. Singapore has asked for an explanation.

Antara had reported that excessive granite mining has triggered environmental damage in a number of areas in the Riau Province, such as Bintan and Karimun, and several Indonesian ministries are discussing the issue.

Indonesia's Energy and Mineral Resources Ministry is reported to be studying the extent to which granite mining can be tolerated, the Environment Ministry is studying the impact of such activity on the surroundings, while the Trade Ministry is evaluating the potential profit and loss from granite exports.

If granite exports are also banned, it will impact Singapore's construction sector, Antara reported. Indonesia's earlier ban on the export of sand has forced Singapore builders — among the biggest buyers of sand — to look to alternative sources. The Singapore Government has also released sand from its stockpile.

Political analysts say the latest threat is meant to up the ante and force Singapore towards signing an extradition treaty, which would be a feather in the cap for some quarters in the Indonesian government. Some Indonesian politicians have said publicly that this was the agenda behind the sand ban.

This despite the fact that Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong had agreed in Oct 2005 to negotiate the extradition treaty in tandem with a defence agreement. - TODAY