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Bali: A Sand Box for Chinese Mining Interests?

Opposition Growing to Plans by Tabanan's Regent to Sell Baliís Seashore Sand to Chinese Mining Company.

(6/6/2011) Bali Post reports that opposition is growing to plans by the Regent of Tabanan to grant a permit to a Chinese company to excavate the mineral-rich black sands of West Bali beaches.

Local residents of Tabanan, especially those living in close proximity to coastal regions, are concerned that promises by a foreign investor to replace the black sands they want to haul away with white sand is little more than an empty promise being used to gain access to the black sand they will use in steel manufacture.

The chairman of Bali Environmental Group (WALHI), Gendo Suardana,  on Friday, June 3, 2011, said: "If they insist on going ahead with this project, the regent of Tabanan will have to confront the law. It is not impossible that a group of citizens will sue the regent over he plan to excavate beach sand."

Gendo’s comments were in response to statements by the Regent declaring her intent to push on with the beach mining project. The environmentalist also questions the logic and financial motivations of the Regent who is proposing a project they see as detrimental to the environment. Calling for a preservation of Tabanan’s natural environment, Gendo thinks new investors should be urged to focus on other industries, such an agricultural tourism.

Underlining his concerns, the WAHLI chairman said the last thing Tabanan should be considering are any plans to excavate its beaches, which are already under a threat or erosion and abrasion. The heavier nature of ore-rich black sand, which form a natural barrier to erosion, will be sacrificed if replaced with more easily eroded white sand. He believes the Regent’s plans, if they go ahead, will accelerate an already serious beach erosion problem in Tabanan.

Gendo continued: "What we will receive from the investor will not be sufficient to replace the cost of beach reclamation for the destroyed beaches. Let’s not be fooled by investors. The promise of beach reclamation is not a bonus that Tabanan will receive. In fact, the investor will profit by obtaining our black sand."

Similar criticism against the Regent’s plans were heard from the chairman of Bali’s National Fisherman Association (HNSI), I Ketut Arsana, who is concerned the sand excavation project will change the local aquaculture and prove contra-productive to local fishermen’s interests.

Pointing to the shared Eco-systems shared by all Bali’s beaches, Arsana said that any excavation of Tabanan’s beaches would impact erosion on other beaches as far away as Negara and Gianyar.

Meanwhile, the Regent of Tabanan, Ni Putu Eka Wiryastuti, has reaffirmed her plans to sell the black sands of her regency’s beaches to Chinese investors.