The Indonesian government has revoked millions of hectares worth of permits for logging, plantations and mining, according to a Mongabay report.

Environmental activists cautiously welcomed the move, saying it was an opportunity to conserve the land by redistributing it to local and indigenous communities and protecting remaining rainforest areas, according to the 12 January report.

However, some senior government officials have said the concessions should be reissued to other companies for development, indicating that lands redistributed to communities would also be open to investors, Mongabay wrote.

The affected concessions include Ministry of Environment and Forestry permits for 192 logging, plantation, mining and ecotourism operations, totalling 3.13M ha; 36 Ministry of Agrarian and Spatial Planning permits for plantations (at 34,448 ha); and 2,078 Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources permits for mines.

To date, Mongabay said only the forestry ministry had released the names of companies whose permits it had revoked – including many in the palm oil sector.

A preliminary analysis by environmental NGO Auriga Nusantara had shown that there are 2.4M ha of rainforest still standing on the lands covered by the 192 forestry ministry permits.

“All of these remaining natural forests have to be protected,” Auriga executive director Timer Manurung told Mongabay. “If they’re given new permits, then it’s going to be ‘same old same old’. For deforested areas, the government needs to check to see which ones can be restored. If they can be restored, then do it.”

President Joko Widodo announced the revocation on 6 January as part of government efforts to maximise the use of the country’s natural resources for development, Mongabay wrote.

“We have to uphold the constitutional mandate that says the land, the water and the natural resources within them are controlled by the state and to be used as much as possible for the people’s welfare,” he said.

Senior government officials have given mixed messages on what the next steps will be for the newly revoked land, according to the report.

The minister of environment and forestry, Siti Nurbaya Bakar, had said the permit revocations would be followed by land redistribution to local communities under the government’s agrarian reform and social forestry programmes, the report said.

However, the environment ministry’s director general of forest planning Ruandha Agung Sugardiman did not mention agrarian reform or social forestry when talking about the permit revocation during a televised interview with CNBC Indonesia on 6 January, according to the report, saying that the revoked concessions would be reissued to new investors.

Dewi Kartika, secretary-general of the Consortium for Agrarian Reform (KPA), said much of the land was likely to constitute customary lands that were taken away from Indigenous peoples and local communities, and should therefore be returned to the rightful owners.

Greenpeace Indonesia forest campaigner Sekar Banjaran Aji called on the government to give the land to local and Indigenous communities to manage.

“The next important step is to make sure that some of these forest areas are protected and returned to Indigenous peoples, not giving new permits for companies in the extractive industries,” she said.

Meanwhile, Indonesia’s investment minister, Bahlil Lahadalia, said that some of the revoked concessions would be reissued for development, while others would be allocated for local and indigenous communities, adding that the government had not yet determined in what proportions, according to the report.