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Palm oil is dominating Keerom, Jayapura, and Manokwari districts in the northern part of Papua Province, while in the southern part it only concentrates in Boven Digoel. PT Korindo Group, a joint venture between Korea and Indonesia, has been cultivating around 15,000 ha of palm oil in this area.

On Saturday (15/5) in Jayapura, an official of Keerom district, Yoseph Atuk, said that PT Korindo Group in Boven Digoel started the palm oil plantation from logging and timber business. The company then expanded its business by planting palm oil. They developed around 15,000 ha of palm oil plantation in this area, especially in Asiki, Jair District, and half of them have been harvested.

“The company has obtained concession of the forest. They clear the productive forest, then plant the land with palm oil. Now, the palm oil plantation has grown and has been producing. There is a crude palm oil processing plant in the area,” he said.

There is also a log processing plant which belongs to PT Korindo in the area. In fact, some of the processed timber exported from the area is processed by PT Korindo Group.

At least, PT Korindo has brought a change of progress for the people of Boven Digoel. There has been a 250 km road which connects Tanah Merah, the capital of Boven Digoel, with Merauke and has opened the access for the local community and district government.

There is a palm oil processing plant, CPO to be processed outside of Papua. About 12,000 locals are assigned with the responsibility to tend the land. The average palm oil production is 150,000 tons/ year of fresh fruit bunches.

PT Korindo employs about 5,000 workers consisting of the locals and people from other regions to manage the plantations. In the future, they plan to only employ the locals to manage the plantations.

PT Korindo is now also developing pines in an area of 100,000 ha. Pines are very important as raw material for paper mill. The eastern part of Indonesia is in need of a paper mill, so that they no longer need to bring paper from Java which has high distribution costs.

The forest products in this area have a very high potential. PT Korindo has been operating in this area for 12 years. In addition to logging business, they also have a pulp mill and sawmill which products are exported overseas.

Behind the concession effort, there are a number of issues which cause the discontent of the local people. For example, the hostage case of PT Korindo’s worker by Free Papua Movement (FPM) in 2001 as a form of claim on customary rights of local people which have not been paid by PT Korindo.

This area is also known as FPM operation center. They are always moving from one place to another. Sometimes, they move to Papua New Guinea (PNG) by passing the Fly River when chased by the security forces. There is an old prison which once used to imprison the former Vice President of Indonesia, the late Mohammad Hatta. Hatta was imprisoned there in 1920s alog with other political prisoners.

According to Atuk, the potential of the productive forest in this area is still 35% untouched. Up to now, PT Korindo has been the only company who has obtained concession of several areas in Asiki District. However, most of the area has not been worked on.

Gold, coal, quartz sand mining are found in some areas. Three investors from Australia have conducted surveys on each potential, quartz sand, gold, and coal in the area. The effort was then continued with the clearance of customary land.

“They are interested because of quartz sand (in this area) has high quality and is different with the quartz sand in Australia and New Zealand. This sand is used as raw materials of various needs, such as glass and other household appliances,” said Atuk.

There is also the potential of freshwater fish and Irian crocodile, especially in Boven Digoel River. The river has been the source of life for the traditional society. They look for shrimp, fish, and hunt the Irian crocodile there for daily needs. (kor)