Palm oil company PT Kallista Alam has started paying for the environmental damage the company caused through a forest fire more than a decade ago, the Jakarta Post wrote.

While the company’s move – which came eight years after it was issued with a court order to pay fines – was welcomed, it came too late and was insufficient to restore the damaged land according to one expert quoted in the 1 October report said.

PT Kallista Alam paid Rp 57.2bn (US$3.7M) to the Environment and Forestry Ministry on 4 September, according to a ministry statement on 29 September.

After being found guilty in 2015 by the Meulaboh District Court in Aceh province of using fire to clear 10km² (3.9 square miles) of land in the Tripa peat swamp on the northwest coast of Sumatra, PT Kallista Alam pursued a series of appeals all the way up to the Supreme Court, Mongabay wrote in a report on 15 May 2018.

The initial ruling was upheld by the Supreme Court, which ordered the company to pay Rp 366bn – around $US26.5M at the time – in fines and reparations to repair the affected forest areas, the report said.

Its final ruling came in April 2017, at which point the company should have exhausted all avenues of appeal, Mongabay wrote.

However, later that same year, the same district court that had convicted the company approved its petition for legal protection, the report said.

PT Kallista Alam subsequently filed suit against the government, arguing that the coordinates for its concession as submitted by the Ministry of Environment and Forestry in the original prosecution were wrong.

In April 2018, the Meulaboh District Court ruled in favour of PT Kallista Alam, effectively shielding it from the Supreme Court-ordered fines on the basis of a typo in the original complaint, Mongabay wrote.

“The plaintiff, PT Kallista Alam, cannot be made to be legally responsible with regard to the Supreme Court’s verdict,” the court said in its 12 April ruling.

The ruling had shocked observers, who had previously welcomed the district court’s 2015 ruling as a landmark decision in the judicial fight against environmental crimes, the report said.

“PT Kallista Alam was found guilty of breaching administrative, criminal and civil law in a series of legal prosecutions [up to] our country’s highest courts,” Farwiza Farhan, chairwoman of the NGO Forest, Nature and Environment Aceh (HAkA), was quoted as saying in a statement at the time.

PT Kallista Alam had said in court that since the revocation of its permit in September 2012, a cooperative had taken over the management of the area and successfully grown oil palms there, the report said. According to the company, that was proof the land had not been damaged by the fires.

Since the concession had been taken over, the company also said it would be impossible for it to restore the land by building reservoirs to re-wet the peat soil.

The destroyed area in Tripa was deemed to be critical for the future of the critically endangered Sumatran orangutan, Mongabay wrote.