Number of small-scale mining increases in Indonesia during pandemic

Number of small-scale mining increases in Indonesia during pandemic
A mining worker goes into a well to mine manganese in a small-scale mining area in West Java province's district of Tasikmalaya. (Dhea Fatma Agustin/WiMe)

Jakarta (Indonesia Window) – The number of small-scale mining in Indonesia has increased during the COVID-19 pandemic, from January 2020 to nowadays, said the Director of Engineering and Environment for Mineral and Coal at the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources.

“Working in a small-scale mining is an alternative livelihood for some people who have lost their jobs as a result of the pandemic,” said Dr. Lana Saria in the 11th ZY Room online national discussion here on Thursday.

The discussion entitled Challenges and Opportunities for Women in Small-Scale Mining Communities Amid the Pandemic was held by a non-profit organization Women in Mining and Energy (WiMe), Extractives Global Programmatic Support (EGPS) from the World Bank, and Tambuhak Sinta Foundation.

Lana further explained that the increase in number of small-scale mining, including small-scale gold mining during the pandemic, caused some challenges related to environmental, health, safety and security issues for women and children who work in this sector.

According to Lana, the awareness to maintain hygiene of those who work in small-scale mining and small-scale gold mining is still very low. “During the pandemic, this will increase the risk of COVID-19 infection spread,” said Lana.

In addition, informal small-scale mining workers do not have adequate knowledge of geological disasters that could potentially occur in mining areas, such as landslides and the possibility of toxic gas emergence from holes at a certain depth.

Small-scale mining workers also do not have sufficient safety equipment, such as Personal Protective Equipment and other heavy equipment to help them with their works.

Another challenge in the small-scale mining sector is gender-based discrimination, as many female workers are paid much lower than their male co-workers, yet have to do heavy works, such as carrying and breaking stones, lifting sand, and processing materials with hazardous chemicals.

“This happens in almost all parts in Indonesia,” Lana said, adding that the number of children accompanying their parents to work in small-scale mining areas has increased following the closure of schools due to the pandemic.

Lana explained that a number of efforts had been made to face those challenges by involving local administrations, the private sectors, and community organizations.

“We are trying to make small-scale gold mining into the formal sector so that the environmental, as well as safety and health aspects of workers are well guaranteed,” she said.

Lana added, small-scale gold mining will also have a legal aspect so that mining products will not end up with collectors who buy with very lower price, and sell them at high prices in the markets.

Reporting by Indonesia Window

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