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Fears rare orangutan 'being driven to extinction' by gold mine

Irish Independent - September 7, 2020

Helena Horton – A newly discovered orangutan species is being driven to extinction by a UK firm's Indonesian gold mine, a wildlife charity has claimed.

The Tapanuli orangutan, the rarest great ape in the world, was discovered by scientists in 2017, the first to be identified in a century.

It lives only in the Batangtoru Forest in Northern Sumatra and there are just 800 of the primates left. Its habitat is on top of a rich gold seam currently being mined by Jardine Matheson. The firm, run by the Keswick family, bought the Martabe mine in 2018 through a subsidiary.

Analysis has found the mine has been further expanded into the habitat of the orangutan since the purchase.

Based in Hong Kong, and domiciled in Bermuda, Jardine Matheson has business interests across the globe. The mine has taken over at least 67.6 acres of Tapanuli orangutan forest habitat.

Satellite imaging shows 21.4 acres have been destroyed since the mine was purchased by the conglomerate, just months after the ape's discovery. Conservationists believe the ape's survival is a "test for humanity" as it moves closer to extinction.

Mighty Earth, an anti-deforestation NGO, has been monitoring the mine since the orangutan's discovery.

Amanda Hurotwitz, its campaign director, has called on Jardine Matheson and the Keswick family to intervene to stop any further destruction of the forest. She said: "This is an issue of corporate responsibility. You have a mine in the habitat of the most endangered species of great ape, they are our closest cousin."

A Jardine Matheson spokesman said the mine was operated in accordance with all government guidelines and local environmental laws, adding: "The mine has not encroached on areas categorised as protected forest, and has been clear on its commitment to protecting biodiversity."

The spokesman said the mine concession area in the satellite images equated to less than half a per cent of the area covered by the protected forest, and that aerial views of the mine concession area would change as a result of ongoing land restoration activities.

– Daily Telegraph, London

Source: https://www.independent.ie/world-news/asia-pacific/fears-rare-orangutan-being-driven-to-extinction-by-gold-mine-39508396.html