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Indonesia’s Jokowi accused of ‘transactional politics’ over religious mining permits

“We will give NU coal concessions whose reserves are large enough to be managed in order to optimise the organisation,” Bahlil said in a speech on May 31 at a congress of NU students in the city of Bekasi, adding that the process was almost finished.

NU Chairman Yahya Cholil Staquf welcomed the new law, saying it was a “bold step” to expand the use of natural resources controlled by the state for the benefit of the people more directly.

“Nahdlatul Ulama is ready with qualified human resources, complete organisational tools and a business network that is strong enough to carry out these duties and responsibilities,” Yahya said in a statement on Monday last week.

In contrast to its current enthusiasm for mining, NU issued a fatwa, or Islamic ruling, in 2015 declaring environmentally damaging exploitation of Indonesia’s natural resources haram, or forbidden in Islam. In 2019, NU spearheaded public opposition to a gold mine in Jember regency, East Java, condemning the project as destructive to the local ecosystem.

Indonesia’s mining business licences, known as IUP, are typically issued by the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources to state and regionally owned enterprises, private businesses, co-operatives, or individual businesses.

Before Widodo’s regulatory change, the ministry was required under a 2021 regulation to auction the licenses for mining metal minerals and coal, while reserving special mining licenses for state or regionally owned firms that were required to have at least three years of mining experience. Religious organisations will not be subject to this experience requirement.

Yahya told reporters on June 6 that NU had asked for a mining licence from the government as soon as the revision was signed into law.