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Jakarta Post

'Gold money' helps Sumbawa recover from earthquakes, but now it battles mercury poisoning

  • Panca Nugraha

    The Jakarta Post

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West Sumbawa   /   Wed, January 29, 2020   /  03:34 pm
The Jakarta Post Image
Sahnip, a worker at a small-scale mining site in Lamunga Atas hamlet in West Sumbawa regency, West Nusa Tenggara, crushes gold-encrusted rocks with her son. Many residents in the hamlet work at unlicensed mining operations in the area.(JP/Panca Nugraha)

Small-scale gold mining has caused concerns in West Sumbawa regency, West Nusa Tenggara (NTB), due to the massive use of mercury and cyanide that can cause health and environmental problems. Limited job opportunities and lower income from farming have caused residents to turn to illegal mining. “I have been working like this since 2014, since the gold mine has been here,” said Sahnip, 42, a resident of Lamunga Atas hamlet in Kayu Putih village, as she crushed rocks into smaller pieces using a hammer of some 5 kilograms in weight. She said she got Rp 10,000 for each sack of crushed rock. In a day she can fill between 15 and 20 sacks with crushed rock, with the help of her 10-year-old son Habibullah. More than 50 women like Sahnip count on rock crushing as their livelihood because the village’s rain-fed rice fields are unyielding, especially during t...