Supporting pathways to minimise the harm and maximise the benefits from community mining enterprises in Eastern Indonesia.
Artisanal and small scale mining (ASM) involves up to 30 million people worldwide contributing 15-20% of global mineral and metal production. This form of mining is generally defined as a community activity with little capital input or formal recognition, focusing on marginal or small deposits. The number of people involved in ASM has increased substantially over the last ten years as world mineral prices have shot-up. Despite its scale this form of mining is often viewed negatively by governments and international agencies due to the potential for adverse environmental and health impacts. However artisanal and small scale mining does provide poor people direct access to the mineral wealth of their land, providing diversified livelihood’s and positively develop community resilience. Supporting pathways to minimise the harm and maximise the benefits from this type of mining is the focus of a 3 year Charles Darwin University (CDU) project supported by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) funding through their Government Partnerships for Development program. This project is working in two districts in Eastern Indonesia, South East Sulawesi which is a centre for small scale gold mining and West Timor where thousands of farmers are also part time manganese miners.
A recent activity supported by this project involved a study tour to a gold mining community in the West Javanese district of Banten where a local NGO has partnered with strong local leadership to develop environmentally and human health friendly mining practices. This activity was facilitated be Sam Pickering from the Research Institute for the Environment and Livelihoods (RIEL) and included government, University and NGO partners from West Timor and Sulawesi. The following is an edited excerpt from a blog written from Dr Wayan Mudita, the project partner leader from the collaborating university in Kupang (UNDANA):
When the opportunity arose for me to participate in a study tour to see best practice community mining, I became curious, is it true artisanal mining can be low impact. In addition, I was also interested in following the grassroots support of artisanal miners through the Indonesian Community Miners Association (APRI), led by Gatot Sugiharto
The study tour was conducted during October 2014 starting with a meeting with the NGO Balifokus in Denpasar followed by a visit to Cisitu village in , Banten province, where Community Green Gold Mining (CGGM) and APRI have been mentoring local miners for the last 5 years.
Discussions with Balifokus were primarily centred on the dangers of mercury used in artisanal mining. Mercury has long been used for refining or aggregating gold however the long term health impacts are very serious. Alternative refining technologies are available however because mercury is efficient, practical and affordable transferring to other methods is difficult. Moreover, there is little data about the current levels of mercury pollution through artisanal and regulations restricting its use have not been fully enforced.
The journey to the mining village from Jakarta took one very long day. On arrival we were received directly by indigenous leaders Abah H. Moch. Okri . In his speech, Abah Okri spoke of leadership, including that based on customary law, religious law, and state law as well as the leadership to align their thoughts, words, and actions to serve the people. "As part of the Indonesian nation, we should be able to put customary law and religious law within the law of the country", he said. We were then taken to a gold processing site in the surrounding settlements which no longer use mercury. The mine site was located in forest areas far away from the village. The mining could be conducted by both local and non-local as long as they obeyed the village law. These laws included that mining should not cut down the tree, mine locations must be rehabilitated through planting trees before the site was abandoned,.
That evening we discussed with the Secretary of Cisitu Kasepuhan, Yoyo Yohenda, their success winning court cases to obtain legal recognition from the government allowing them to managing all natural resources in their region. Previously some of their village land was located within the national park (Taman Nasional Gunung Halimun-Salak ) and mining was controlled by a large company. Now all their land has been returned to their control and mining has become self-managed through local cooperatives. "Our victory in the Court is not only important to us in Cisitu Kasepuhan, but also for all indigenous peoples in Indonesia to fight for their rights ", said Yoyo Yohenda.
This brief study tour changed my view of community mining and left a deep impression of the leadership of Abah Okri. His words, "Abah just need to teach honesty in thought, words, and action", kept ringing in my ears on the way home.
Inspired by this study tour plans have been developed in both west Timor South East Sulawesi to build partnerships with local mining communities in order to positively influence mining practices. Pak Gatot Sugiharto from APRI will travel to Sulawesi this year to investigate pathways for developing cooperative engagement with local miners through local indigenous leaders. Brining his experience from the Cisitu the goal would be to introduce less harmful mining methods such as mercury free refining techniques. In west Timor Pak Wayan Mudita plans to start a chapter of APRI to provide a forum for small miner support. In addition community stake holder forums will be held in villagers engaged in manganese mining to build an understanding of the issues they face in developing more sustainable mining practices.
The opportunity this project is providing to link key actors in this complex but fascinating issue is proving to be key in developing pathways towards better outcomes for community miners and the environment.