Banyuwangi mining site risks triggering social conflict: Experts
The Jakarta Post
A researcher from the Center for Political and Governance Research (Polgov) at Gadjah Mada University (UGM) in Yogyakarta said on Friday that gold mining at Tumpang Pitu in Banyuwangi, East Java, risked causing social conflict.
Dian Lestariningsih of Polgov said that the results of the center's study entitled Preventing Unchecked Exploitation of Natural Resources published in August 2015 showed that the likelihood of conflict arose from the government's failure to heed local knowledge about Tumpang Pitu hill.
'Local people know that the 450-meter hill acts as a form of natural protection against tsunamis, as a breaker of the southwesterly winds and as a signpost for local fishermen,' Dian told The Jakarta Post.
Furthermore, Dian said, the hill was also home to the Segara Tawang Alun temple, a place of worship for local Hindus. This, she said, could also trigger conflict between the local community and the mining company.
According to Dian, local people are also worried about potential damage to the environment, natural disasters, limited job opportunities, demands for compensation and the negative impact on tourism.
Political expert Purwo Santoso of UGM concurred, noting that local community knowledge was a form of collective knowledge that grew organically as a result of a mix of traditions, religions and innovations.
Both Islam and Hinduism, he said, taught the concept of a relation between humans and their creator, between humans and nature and between humans and other humans.
'Preventing damage should be prioritized over exploiting [the site],' Purwo said.
As reported, in 2006 the Banyuwangi regency administration granted a mining business license to PT Indo Multi Niaga, which later transferred the license to PT Merdeka Copper Gold through its two subsidiaries, namely PT Bumi Suksesindo (BS), which was given the right to work on 4,998 hectares, and PT Damai Suksesindo, which was to manage 6,623 ha.
The local community had expressed opposition to the establishment of mining operations in 1997. The latest protest was conducted on Nov. 25 last year, and ended in a contretemps between local demonstrators and security personnel.
Ika, a local journalist, said that following the protest, opposition to the mining activities was concentrated in interfaith youth group Banyuwangi Forum for Environmental Learning (BFEL) and activists from the Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi).
The BFEL argues against the mining operation because it would threaten the existence of the Hindu temple, while Walhi has voiced concerns over potential damage to the environment.
Tumpang Pitu was previously designated as a protected forest area, but on Nov. 19, 2013, then forestry minister Zulkifli Hasan, who is now chair of the People's Consultative Assembly and leads the National Mandate Party, changed the status of the forest from protected forest to production forest, paving the way for mining operations to begin.
Separately, a Banyuwangi Balinese Hindu leader, Nyoman Pageh Yasa, said that gold mining activities on Tumpang Pitu did not disturb the practice of rituals at the temple and its surroundings.
'I have with me the environmental impact analysis of the gold mine and the temple is located very far from the mining concession area. The mining companies have also expressed their commitment not to disturb the rituals,' Nyoman said on Friday.
However, on Tuesday, BFEL coordinator Ari Restu reiterated the interfaith group's opposition to the mining activities, insisting that the operation did endanger the continued existence of the temple.
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