A Toronto-based mining company said that it was working closely with the Indonesia government to remove the protected status of around 1.6 million hectares of forest on the Sumatra island. According to a group of Indonesian environmentalists, East Asia Minerals Corporation has hired Fadel Muhammad, former Golkar Deputy Chairman, to help convince the Aceh government to re-zone sections of the forest for a gold mine. The re-zoning proposal would include close to a million hectares for mining, over 400,000 for logging, and over 250,000 for oil palm plantations. "The company is working closely with government officials in the country and have company representatives on the ground in Aceh to obtain reclassification of the forestry zone from 'protected forest' to 'production forest,' " the company said in a press release. "Once forestry designation has been reclassified, the company will be granted the ability to continue the drilling program with the goal of expanding the resource at Miwah." Environmental groups have said that the proposal would threaten the island's biodiversity and may exacerbate conflict as it threatens food security. Friends of the Earth Indonesia campaigner Dedi Ratish said the effort underscores the influence corporations have on policy in the country. "This spatial plan is being developed via a highly unhealthy process, in which foreign corporations are intervening and driving local policy," he said in a statement. "Reclassification of these forests is clearly not in the best interests of Aceh’s local communities, but instead in the interests of massive natural resources exploitation. This plan should be rejected immediately." For the full story, see and