Indonesia: Illegal gold mining blamed for damage to national park

Ruslan Sangadji, The Jakarta Post 3 Mar 16;

Illegal gold mining activities have been blamed for environmental damage in the Lore Lindu National Park (TNLL) in Poso and Sigi regencies, Central Sulawesi, 90 kilometers to the south of the provincial capital of Palu.

Some 1,000 illegal miners are currently conducting mining activities in a 4-hectare area in Dongi-Dongi village, Sedoa subdistrict located in both regencies.

Chairman of the Central Sulawesi Environmental Agency, Abd Rahim, said that miners from different regions continued to flock to the site, digging the soil and leaving holes on hillsides, searching for gold ore.

Unfortunately, Rahim said, the site was located in a part of the TNLL that had just been rehabilitated in the last four months. Unless something was done about it, he said, the forest damage in the area would get worse.

“It is also feared [the illegal mining] may cause social conflict in the community,” he said recently.

He said his office had examined the location and found damage that could further deteriorate the flora and fauna ecosystem in the TNLL rehabilitation zone.

He also said his office had coordinated with the TNLL center and established an integrated team that had been tasked by the governor with curbing the illegal mining.

Central Sulawesi Governor Longki Djanggola said the illegal mining needed to be curtailed as soon as possible because apart from damaging the environment the toxic waste it produced endangered the health of people in the vicinity.

“That is very dangerous. The security authorities have to be firm in dealing with illegal miners,” Longki said.

Separately, Sigi Police operations unit chief Comr. Abdul Aziz said the police had often arrested residents for digging up soil from the mining sites and taking it to Palu for further processing.

“We’ve several times arrested residents at traffic check points and seized sacks containing soil from pick-up trucks,” Aziz said.

He said the police could not take firm action against the illegal miners as they had no firm policy from the local government.

Meanwhile, Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi) Central Sulawesi branch director Ahmad Pelor urged action, saying the illegal mining site was located within protected forest and was categorized as an area prone to disasters especially landslides.

“The government and all related parties have to move fast to prevent the damage from further expanding and to stop the number of miners from increasing,” he said.

He also expressed support for the shutting down of the illegal mining area but suggested that it be conducted through persuasive means.

TNLL officially covers an area of 217,991.18 hectares. It is home to flora and fauna endemic to Sulawesi and offers interesting natural phenomena as a result of its being located on the Wallace Line, which is the transition line between the Asian and Australasian landmasses.

Located to the south of Donggala regency and to the west of Poso regency, the park is a water-catchment area for the three big rivers in the province, namely the Lariang, Gumbasa and Palu rivers.

The park is a habitat for Sulawesi’s biggest native mammals including anoa, hog deer, deer, ghost monkeys, kakaktonkea monkeys, kuskus marsupials and civets. At least five different species of squirrels and 31 out of 38 species of rats can also be found there.

Other riches of the park include thousands of insect species and ancient megalithic structures considered to be the best of their kind in Indonesia.

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