National

Military to be deployed
to fight illegal miners
on Mt. Merapi

Military officers will be deployed to monitor the closure of an illegal mining site on Mt. Merapi, Central Java, a legislator said Tuesday.

The move is to ensure that local miners do not cause any more damage to the environment, he said.

"Central Java Governor Bibit Waluyo has asked the legislative council for funding to shut down illegal mining operations, which are damaging the environment," legislator Kamal Fauzi said.

"Local miners who now find themselves unemployed will be trained in farming," he said.

There were some 3,000 local miners whose livelihoods depended on the mining site, Governor Bibit said as quoted by kompas.com.

In February, Bibit shut down an illegal mine in Kertek, Wonosobo, which was the primary source of income for 719 miners.

After four days of dialogues with the local administration, several miners from the villages of Kapencar, Candiyasan, Candimulyo and Pagerrejo agreed to take up farming, while others were offered jobs in an oil palm plantation in Central Kalimantan.

The dialogues were facilitated by an environment task force assigned by the local administration to anticipate and deal with the environmental and social impacts of the closure.

Kamal said it was difficult to prevent local villagers from continuing to mine the area, because mining provided them with a source of income.

Areas already damaged by the illegal mines will be restored by Wonosobo regency administration, with the involvement of local residents and investors who had often bought construction materials such as sand, rocks and gravel from illegal miners.

But because of increasing demand for materials for construction projects in Wonosobo, the regency administration plans to issue a decree to allow mining at the same site.

The decree would follow up on a bylaw on mining permits, which was issued by Wonosobo administration in 2007.

Councilor Kamal further said that to restore land in certain areas of Central Java, to prevent landslides and flooding, was a difficult job for authorities, because such moves often faced resistance from local villagers.

Kamal cited the area of deforested land in the Rahtawu mountainous area in Kudus regency.

"Local residents always grow corn plants there despite frequent landslides. They refuse to grow hard plants to prevent such disasters.Their reasoning is always the same: because if it is not corn, what will they harvest for food?" Kamal said.

The damaged land belonging to state-owned forestry company PT Perhutani would not be difficult to restore because the firm has an established land regeneration program, Kamal said.

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