JAKARTA: Indonesia is seeking to expand its legal rights over a continental shelf with untapped mineral resources beyond its current 200 nautical miles north of Papua province, an official said on Tuesday.
Purbaya Yudhi Sadewa, a deputy minister for maritime sovereignty and energy at the Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs, said in a press conference the first hearing of Indonesia’s April 2019 submission of its claim had taken place at the United Nations in New York in March.
“As a state party to the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, or UNCLOS, Indonesia has the right to submit claims to expand our continental shelf over an area … north of Papua province. It is roughly 196,568 square kilometers,” Sadewa said.
A seabed measurement conducted from June to September 2019 by the Agency for the Assessment and Application of Technology to determine Indonesia’s outermost boundaries in the northern waters of Papua showed that there is an elevation known as the Eauripik Rise on the seabed which serves as a bridge connecting the plain of Papua to the plain in the area Indonesia is seeking to claim.
Responding to a question from Arab News, Sadewa said that, according to experts, the bridge is basis enough for Indonesia to claim the area as its expanded continental shelf.
“There is a potential for mineral reserves, but we don’t know for sure yet,” he explained. “Other countries — small island countries — are doing the same, too and they could have the exclusive rights over the area and the mineral reserves under the seabed. We don’t want to be left behind.” He added that the process to have sovereign rights over the continental shelf would be a “struggle” and could take seven to eight years to resolve.
Sadewa also said that the government is also seeking to claim a further 200,000 square kilometers of continental shelf in the waters southwest of Sumatra island and is conducting a survey to collect evidence before submitting the claim to the UN.
“We have been quietly working to expand our nation’s territory,” Sadewa said.
I Made Andi Arsana, a geodetic engineering expert from Gadjah Mada University in Yogyakarta, told Arab News, “We are playing with imagination and with hopes (of potential mineral reserves), but if we do not claim it now, we could lose the chance to secure it for future generations.”
Arsana added that other island countries located north of the area, including Palau and the Federated States of Micronesia, could lay claim to the area, too, as it sits south of their territories, even though there is not yet sufficient data to prove whether there are valuable mineral reserves there.
He said the UN Commission on the Limit of the Continental Shelf (UNCLCS) — to which Indonesia submitted its claim — would issue a binding resolution over countries’ rights to a continental shelf based on scientific and technical data, but that, should two neighboring countries’ continental shelves overlap, it would be up to the two countries to negotiate where to draw their boundaries.