The Coal Capitalists

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  • TEMPO Interactive, Jakarta:Coal has showered riches upon many local Kalimantan businessmen. All they need is a penchant for taking big risks and aggressively lobby local administration officials. Jahrian has yet to return to Banjarmasin over the past two years. The coal businessman who was once successful in South Kalimantan now spends more time moving from one place to another, far away from his birthplace. He spends more time in Batam or Singapore, said Mohammad Solikin, his right-hand man, beginning of last July.Its only understandable that the top person of PT Sari Borneo Yufanda, the company in charge of many coal endeavors in Kalimantan, does not sleep well in his home. In the beginning of 2010, he was involved in a messy feud with another local coal businessman in Banjarmasin. As a result, Jahrian is now a suspect.What Jahrian is experiencing is nothing new in Kalimantan. Coal miners often compete against each other over land concession. In the coal mining world of Kalimantan, the law of nature is at work. Only the fittest survives, said Rizanie Anshari, the Director of the Center for Anticorruption Study in South Kalimantan.One does not need huge capital to become a coal merchant. If one owns a permit for mining but does not own land, one can rent documents to illegal miners. The fee is Rp175 thousand per ton of coal, said Zainal Rusdi, local journalist in South Kalimantan who is a close observer of coal-related intrigues in Tanah Bumbu, Kotabaru.If one owns heavy machinery such as the excavator but does not own land, it is not a huge issue. Many nip away at land concessions owned by big companies such as Arutmin and Adaro, said Zainal. These giant companies with hundreds of thousands hectares of land usually keep quiet if one or two hectares of their land are dug up byillegal miners.If one does not have anything at all? This is not a problem, either. You can hunt buyers for the tons of coal unearthed every month. This is why coal in South Kalimantan can be said to shower profit on everyone, not to mention coal that is illegally come by. The police, the local government, the central government, everyone is choosing to ignore this, said Zainal.Its no wonder if the backgrounds of South Kalimantan coal merchants vary widely. Jahrian himself was a middle school teacher in Sungai Danau, Satui, in the regency of Tanah Bumbu, South Kalimantan. The 48-year-old man climbed up a tall ladder in the coal arena.Abdurrahman Midi, another coal businessman in South Kalimantan, was once a motor taxi driver and a truck co-driver in Banjar. Aman Jagau a.k.a Aman the Jagonhis more popular appellationis now in charge of tens of thousands of hectares of land in Tanah Bumbu and its surrounding area.Amans luck began in 1997 when he bought some swampland in Kotabaru for Rp37.5 million. Apparently, the land was abundant with coal, and at the time of the economy crisis, coal prices skyrocketed. Now Aman has tens of costly houses and, among others, a BMW, Hummer, and a Rolls-Royce. Due to his marriage to a Jakarta artist, his name once adorned many entertainment media.Such phenomenal news is not the monopoly of Aman or Jahrian. In Banjarmasin, everyone knows Andi Syamsudin Arsyad, or more popularly known as Haji Isam. The stout 35-year-old man is the owner of the Jhonlin Baratama business empire, operating in South Kalimantan and Central Kalimantan. Haji Isam was the person involved in a feud with Jahrian in East Barito.Haji Isam dove into the coal business in 2003. Now Isam is in charge of tens of companies with a total of more than Rp1 trillion in assets. Isam is only a high school graduate in Batulicin, Tanah Bumbu. After finishing high school, he became a truck driver, transporting wood. I did not have money to go to college, said Isam when Tempo interviewed him some time ago.Nine years back, with borrowed capital from a local coal miner, Isam established the Jhonlin Baratama. Due to his diligence in searching for land rich in black gold, the yield of the Jhonlin mines increased rapidly, from about 5,000 ton initially to hundreds of thousands of tons per month. Wahyu Dhyatmika, Khaidir Rahman, SG Wibisono, Firman Hidayat ***