Target: President of Indonesia, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono
Goal: Protect Indonesia’s natural environment and mine workers from the ravages of unregulated mining operations
In the past decade, the rising cost of gold has drastically increased the number of mining operations taking place in Indonesia’s once protected forests. Many of these mining companies are small-scale operations that have begun to appear in nearly every area of the country. This form of mining not only takes an enormous and, in some cases, irreversible environmental toll, but has negative effects on human health as well.
Often, these small, privately owned mining companies are able to avoid government regulation on the use of toxic chemicals such as mercury in the mining process. Mercury, once popular in mining around the world, has now been banned by nearly every country in the developing world, including Indonesia. The use of this highly toxic chemical leads to water and soil contamination, dangerous mixing with other chemicals in the area, wildlife endangerment and can lead to numerous health problems in humans including decreased brain function, sickness and even death. However, lack of government regulation has allowed for small-scale mining companies to illegally use mercury and other dangerous chemicals such as cyanide in the mining process, leading to alarmingly high levels of contamination in mining runoff.
The actual physical process of mining is incredibly damaging to the environment as well. Large structures, heavy machinery and increased noise levels have destroyed and driven away many species of native plants and animals such as orangutans, sun bears, tigers, and deer. Many of these small companies mine for gold in what are technically considered “protected” forests where the need to preserve biodiversity is even more imminent than elsewhere.
Despite the government of Indonesia’s official statement recognizing the growing problem of small-scale mining in the country, officials have done very little to regulate these harmful operations. Laws requiring mining permits have yet to pass in parliament, and government-organized task forces designed to investigate mining operations failed to enforce restrictions or bans on certain mining methods.
The ever-increasing number of highly destructive and dangerous small-scale mining operations in Indonesia must be taken seriously. Demand that the Indonesian government prioritize mining regulation and enforce restrictions and bans on chemical use.
Dear President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono,
In recent years, the increasing price of gold has led to countless, small-scale mining operations throughout Indonesia. These mining companies, though small, create immeasurable problems for both the environment and citizens that reside nearby.
Illegal and unregulated use of mercury in the mining process is currently resulting in alarmingly high toxicity levels of soil and water, as much as five times the safety levels imposed by other countries such as China. This leads to loss of biodiversity as native plant and animal species are poisoned and die off in increasing numbers. Furthermore, it will invariably lead to loss of human life as those who are subjected to mercury runoff in their soil and water supply are continually poisoned.
Mining is an important component to Indonesia’s economy. However, the frightening effects of these unregulated mining operations are as inexcusable as they are preventable.
I strongly urge you to prioritize mining regulation throughout the country and enforce bans and restrictions on toxic chemicals and other illegal mining methods. By cracking down on ever-popular small-scale mining companies, you will help ensure that the natural beauty of Indonesia’s forests and the quality of life for animals and humans in these areas is preserved and protected.
[Your Name Here]
Photo Credit: Richard Erari via Wikimedia Commons