Korean-Indonesian corporation Korindo has been accused of clearing more than 50,000ha of tropical lowland forests in Indonesia’s Papua and North Maluku provinces to grow palm oil and of using fire to clear land, contributing to the country’s haze problems.

A new report by Aidenvironment released in August said major palm oil producers, Wilmar and Musim Mas, had already stopped procuring from Korindo. And Malaysia’s IOI Corporation said in the Guardian newspaper that its third party suppliers had also “decided to temporarily stop sourcing from Korindo”.

Korindo has operations in logging, pulpwood and oil palm concessions in Indonesia, employing around 20,000 people in the country.

Aidenvironment said it had concessions to eight areas totalling 160,000ha, seven of them covering 149,000ha in Papua, where Korindo was the largest palm oil company. It also helped Korean company Daewoo with its 30,000ha plantation in Papua.

The NGO said Korindo began aggressive clearing of tropical lowland forests for oil palm plantations in 2013, clearing 30,000ha of forests in the two provinces – 12,000ha of which were primary forests – since that year. In total, it had cleared 50,000ha of tropical lowland forests in Papua and North Maluku.

Aidenvironment said Korindo had also contributed significantly to Indonesia’s haze disaster in 2015 and was the largest haze contributor in Papua, with satellite imagery, hotspot data and aerial photographs pointing to the systematic use of fire during its land clearing processes.

“As of June 2016, 75,000ha of valuable forests remained in Korindo’s oil palm concessions.”

The corporation’s practices threatened to destroy the last sanctuary of several birds of paradise and the tree kangaroo, it said.

Koh Gyeong Min, Korindo’s head of sustainability, has denied that the firm has been responsible for any illegal forest burning.

“It is not true actually,” he said in the Guardian. “We followed all of the Indonesian regulations and acquired all the proper licences from the government for all areas of operation within our group.”

The Aidenvironment report was commissioned by Mighty, the Korea Federation for Environmental Movements, SKP-KAMe Merauke and PUSAKA.

Its allegations came as southeast Asia’s 2016 burning season was just beginning, the Guardian said.

Indonesia’s meteorology, climatology and geophysics agency (BMKG) warned on 30 August that fires in the western part of Riau province on Sumatra island could blow towards Malaysia and Singapore if winds blew eastwards. Other high-risk areas were in Aceh, Bengkulu, Jambi and part of South Sumatra, and Central and Western Kalimantan.

Riau was one of several provinces which had declared a state of emergency over forest fires, which BNPB said was caused by a combination of dry weather conditions, sporadic rain and illegal use of fire to clear lands.

Malaysia, Singapore and parts of Thailand suffered the worst haze outbreak in years from September to November last year.

Image credit: Greenpeace