New Year, New Palm Oil Mill Threatens the Leuser Ecosystem

GPS Coordinate: N 4°34’32.59″ E 97°37’8.65″

As we welcome the new year, RAN field investigators have discovered a highly concerning new palm oil mill being constructed directly adjacent to the Leuser Ecosystem. Worse, the mill belongs to a controversial, repeat-offender palm oil company, Agra Bumi Niaga (PT ABN), notorious for previously destroying lowland rainforests, including a crucial habitat corridor used by critically endangered Sumatran elephants in Aceh Timur.

Mills operating on the borders of the internationally important Leuser Ecosystem are a particular concern because of the well-documented history of such mills recklessly sourcing from inside the protected region, even when doing so is in direct conflict with the No Deforestation commitments issued publicly by their customers.

Drone evidence collected by RAN’s field investigation teams show the mill is located in close proximity to critically important lowland rainforests. The site is nearly operational, and includes newly built effluent ponds that will soon be filled with the toxic by-products of palm oil production.

On June 22, 2016, Indonesia’s Environment and Forestry Minister sealed off a PT ABN palm oil concession because the company did not have the proper permit for land clearance. In February 2017, RAN released a report that showed massive deforestation at a PT ABN plantation, despite a moratorium of clearing forests inside the Leuser Ecosystem. With the report, RAN also released shocking drone footage of the forest destruction.

In 2019, responding to the controversy generated by investigations conducted by the national government of Indonesia, PT ABN told media outlet it would protect and restore forests within its concession. No public commitment has since been issued, or evidence published on the company’s efforts to protect or restore forests, despite similar commitments being issued by its neighbouring palm oil company Mopoli Raya.

Major brands and traders exposed for sourcing from PT ABN such as Wilmar, Golden Agri Resources, Nestlé, Mondelēz and Mars, remain at risk of sourcing from PT ABN’s plantation. RAN asks that these companies issue commitments not to buy from PT ABN”s new mill until the company has published a commitment to protect remaining forests in its concession, restore forests cleared, and prove that its mill has the systems in place to only source traceable and deforestation-free palm oil produced outside of the Leuser Ecosystem.

2020 is a critical year in the historic effort to protect the world-class Leuser Ecosystem from deforestation for palm oil expansion. Allowing known bad actors like PT ABN to expand operations and build brand new mills on the edge of the Leuser without such commitments is exactly the wrong direction towards achieving the conservation goals established by local communities, the national government and international consumers.