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Ravages of Mining Too High a Price for Economic Development, Activists Say PDF Print E-mail
by Fidelis E. Satriastanti, The Jakarta Globe, July 9, 2009  

An activist on Wednesday harshly criticized mining as a tool for 
economic development, saying it should be the last option 
explored due to the social, economic and environmental upheaval 
it caused.  “There is no such thing as sustainable mining. It’s a myth — 
there is nothing about mining that is sustainable,” said Siti 
Maimunah, the national coordinator of the Mining Advocacy 
Network, an NGO.
“Whatever it is that’s being mined is a nonrenewable resource 
and when it dries up, there is nothing left except the misery of 
people who were evicted from land then rendered useless,” she 
said.

Referring to mining activities at Batugosok, West Manggarai 
district, on the island of Flores, Siti said small islands 
should not allow mining because of their geographic 
vulnerability.

“Mining eats up large expanses of land, requires huge quantities 
of water — an important issue in areas already experiencing 
water shortages — and uses environmentally dangerous chemicals 
which pollute the air and water,” she said. “The local people 
will also be faced with social issues such as conflicts 
resulting from an influx of immigrants, price increases, 
prostitution and health problems.”

Since June, local residents and environmentalists have been 
protesting the activities of a gold mine seven kilometers from 
Labuhan Bajo, the capital of West Manggarai district, which 
serves as the gateway to the famous Komodo National Park.

Siti said it was not the mine’s proximity to the national park 
that had sparked the protests but the high-risk nature of such 
activities for small islands.
“It takes at least 105 liters of water to clean just one gram of 
gold, so you can imagine the effects in areas that are already 
having trouble with water,” she said.

She added that other locations such as Central Kalimantan, Buyat 
Island in South Sumatra and Papua also were struggling with 
similar problems.
Environmental expert Emil Salim noted that industrial mining was 
a major source of tax revenue but questioned how that money was 
being spent.

“These companies do pay taxes, but the next question should be, 
are some of those funds being returned to these poor areas to 
eradicate poverty or are they just being used to build another 
tall city building,” he said.
Emil said local governments must play a role in trying to 
alleviate the unwelcome effects of mining on local communities. 
He said they needed to attract or develop substitute industries 
to replace mining once the mines ceased to be productive.

“[Local governments] need to introduce renewable industries — 
such as agriculture, fisheries or plantations — and urge the 
companies to rehabilitate the mining sites if they are no longer 
productive,” he said.
Emil added that he had asked the Ministry of Energy and Mineral 
Resources to investigate the case on Flores Island.
“Another problem is that mining is usually located in isolated 
areas and the use of advanced technology produces a strong 
cultural contrast with the poor rural or traditional people 
usually found in these areas,” he said.
Mining expert Ryad Chairil said the central government often 
failed to consider the complexities of the problems created by 
mining in local communities.

“The central government holds a very important role in these 
matters because while mining, especially gold mining, is a 
strategic and vital product for this country, there are many 
consequences that need attention, such as the widespread 
environmental damage caused by chemicals used in gold mining,” 
he said.
Ryad said that ultimately the problem was that economic
interests always trumped ecological concerns.
 
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