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Small-scale mining has big consequences

By Angus Smith

From left: CDU researcher Sam Pickering with project partner leader from collaborating university, Universitas Nusa Cendana, Dr Wayan Mudita and Pak Agus from CARE Indonesia From left: CDU researcher Sam Pickering with project partner leader from collaborating university, Universitas Nusa Cendana, Dr Wayan Mudita and Pak Agus from CARE Indonesia

The recipients of a $1 million Federal Government Partnerships for Development grant to monitor the impacts of artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM) in eastern Indonesia have recently returned from a field trip to the west Javanese district of Banten.

The Charles Darwin University team travelled to a gold mining community where a local NGO, Community Green Gold Mining, has partnered with local leaders to develop environmentally and human health friendly mining practices.

The field trip was facilitated by CDU's Research Institute for the Environment and Livelihoods (RIEL) researcher Sam Pickering and included government, university and NGO partners from West Timor and Sulawesi. 

“This brief study tour changed my view of community mining,” Mr Pickering said. “This project gives us the opportunity to link key stakeholders and develop pathways towards better outcomes for community miners and the environment.” 

RIEL Research Fellow Rohan Fisher said ASM involved up to 30 million people worldwide, contributing 15-20 per cent of global mineral and metal production. 

“While small-scale mining is an important source of income for many poor people in developing countries, these activities can be toxic for miners and local environments,” Mr Fisher said. “Many of the negative environmental, social and health impacts of small-scale mining across Indonesia still need to be explored.”

Mr Fisher said the project was building critical skills in monitoring, understanding and ultimately reducing these impacts with a focus on remote regions of eastern Indonesia.

“This project addresses the negative impacts on health and long-term livelihoods through environmental damage and social upheaval of small-scale community mining, which is rapidly increasing in eastern Indonesia,” he said. 

The next milestone for the group will be a small-scale Artisanal Mining Symposium at CDU on  April 28.

Find more details about the project and study tour at Rohan’s blog.