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Small-scale mining symposium comes to Darwin

By Katie Weiss

Indonesian stakeholders have attended the recent symposium in Darwin. Pictured with CDU researcher Rohan Fisher (right) Indonesian stakeholders have attended the recent symposium in Darwin. Pictured with CDU researcher Rohan Fisher (right)

An international symposium hosted by Charles Darwin University has explored the effects of artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM) in eastern Indonesia.

Indonesian Government, non-government and university stakeholders joined CDU researchers, NT Government representatives and experts from the Australian National University and University of Queensland at Casuarina campus to discuss the global issue.

The “Symposium on small-scale mining in Eastern Indonesia” addressed negative health, environmental and long-term livelihood impacts of ASM, whereby ASM miners work without being officially employed by a mining company.

Symposium co-organiser, CDU Research Institute for the Environment and Livelihoods (RIEL) Research Fellow Rohan Fisher said issues associated with the practice included death from mine shaft collapse, ill-health from water pollution, child labour, and harm to ecosystems.

“Along with the rise in price of world minerals, we have seen a substantial increase in the number of people involved in ASM over the past 10 years,” Mr Fisher said.

“Governments and international agencies often view ASM negatively due to its potentially adverse environmental and health impacts.

“Still, the practice does provide the impoverished with direct access to mineral wealth and has the potential to positively develop community resilience and provide diversified livelihoods.”

Speakers at the symposium included representatives from NGO group, Bali Fokus, which works to fight against the use of poisonous mercury in ASM goldmining.

Also speaking at the event was ANU researcher Dr Kuntala Lahiri-Dutt, whose research focuses on understanding poor farmers who are living in mineral-rich areas and experiencing agrarian and social change.

A team of RIEL researchers, including Mr Fisher, is working with ANU Associate Professor Andrew McWilliam to monitor manganese mining in Kupang and goldmining in Sulawesi, Indonesia.

The project received a $1.2 million grant from the Australian Government Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Government Partnerships for Development program, to monitor the impacts of ASM in eastern Indonesia.