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– Sophocles, Antigone
Perhaps, that’s what people in my homeland, Bangka Belitung, have in mind when they do the wide-scale illegal tin mining. Excessive demand of tin from the wide-world somehow force and blind them. They turn the fertile forest and the plantation soil into wiped out, non-arable land. Leaving behind barren sandy land and huge turbid watery holes with no tin, or even a slight chance to be planted. It is a real story, where nature defacement leads to hunger-threat and economic collapse for its people.
What is the cause of the damaged ex-mining land? The answer is, because, during the mining the fertile layer of the soil is raised and removed. Mostly, tin is mingled with quartz sand. This will leave the nutrient-less sandy land. The plantation that once the people use to do, is no longer possible. Nowadays, when tin mining is harder to be done because the stricter regulation and of course, the declining quality of the tin itself, people with mined land can no longer do plant for a living. The availability of vegetable and foodstuff now depends on supply from some other places, like, Bengkulu, Palembang, and Padang. Even worse, not only causing soil-degradation, tin mining also bringing on water pollution. Water pollution often spread to the area around the mining. Polluted water is not suitable for daily use and has bad effect for the crops. This means, if a fine plantation located around mining area, there is a great chance that the plants are going to be affected. This is why, mining activity has become a nightmare for the farmer.
According to Friends of The Earth paper, the great mine workings happened in early 2000. Now, tin mining is a lot harder to do because government applies stricter regulation and the tin itself is less and less good. People of Bangka Belitung who changed their occupation from farming to mining is now facing economic problem for having no stable livelihood. This phenomenon of course will lead to a greater problem if there is no solution. When Bangka people depends their daily needs from external, then the prices are going to arise because local supplies are limited. Decreasing economic and increasing price will cause deadly cycle for them, where economic inclination are falling. Moreover, weather factor, which take part in supplies distribution. The worst that possibly happen is, Bangka Belitung people will face hunger and poverty. The local people will likely have to pay for natural disaster they set by chasing temporal benefit.
The most strategic solution to overcome this, is to do land reclamation and polluted-water cleaning to boost local agriculture, to fulfill local needs. Reclamation takes a lot of works, time and resource to cover over the soils and mining holes, so, it needs to be done periodically, started from the lands with minor damages. The works can be started by cleaning the polluted-water to fulfill the water supply. We also need world’s help, because, remember, the world takes part in this.
Picture by Friends of The Earth, UK.