Albertus Vembrianto

The Lost River

“We usually paddled our boats, put net, caught fishes and shrimps in this river,” said Samuel, sixty three years old, an indigenous Mimika, Papua. His story is now vanish since a gigantic mining company operated early 1970s. The Ajkwa River transformed into tailing disposal area.

The Ajkwa River reached 138 kilometers long from the mountainous area up to the coastal area and the width reached four kilometers. Based on the report of Earthworks and Mining Watch, Canada (2012), this gigantic mining company in Mimika Regency produces and disposes about 200,000 tons of tailing every day, more than eighty million tons a year.

Thousand of indigenous Papuan families stay at embankment areas. This nine meters tall embankment is built for operation transportation of the mining company as well as for the barrier of the waste disposal areas and the residential areas. Those families make a living by becoming illegal miners in tailing areas. They stay at plastic tents without access to clean water and electricity. Their children grow without proper education but learn to earn money by themselves and learn to get drunk in easy ways.

Actually, there are corporate social responsibility program such as building schools, training indigenous communities in agricultural cultivation and other community development programs. A number of these programs began since the initiation of revenue sharing known as the “one percent fund” in 1996.

The problem that the “one percent fund” interpreted as the payment of the indigenous customary right by the indigenous communities is not covered the huge hole of losing their living resources like river, mountainous areas and every single things in the jungle. The land for indigenous Papuan is Mother. Is there anything can substitute the lost of a mother?

The indigenous Papuan children crossed the river embankment which functioned as mining operation roads.

Anis Sien, fourteen years old, watered the sand to separate the gold from the sand whilst his father, Damianus, checked the gold content in the sand. Anis was born and grows up in this area.

Ajkwa River in Mimika Regency, Papua, Indonesia. The Otomona River is made into a deposition area for tailings, the waste of mine operations. About 13,000 people live in the region to become gold miners, more than half of which are indigenous people.

Markus, eleven years old, learns to pan for gold from his father. He buys clothes and a snack with the earned money.

Miners purify gold in pans.

Some illegal miners going to the mining location.

Miners can usually find one to two grams of gold a day in the Ajkwa river. This earns them around $26 – a large sum of money in the area, and one of the many reasons people leave their villages to do this work.

Babies are bathed using collected rainwater or clean water that the Papuans buy from the market, while children will bath in the Ajkwa river, next to the Otomona river which is bordered by embankment.

The illegal miners’ children rent play station for 5,000 rupiah per hour. It is easy for these children to get 5,000 rupiahs by working as helper in this area.

The children are drunk and sleeping after smoking glue. The glue contains trichloroethylene, a chemical that can causes loss of balance, dizziness, euphoria and hallucinations.

Imakulata Emakeparo, 61 years old, shot in the area of mining operation in Mimika Regency, Papua (3 February 2018). She was with his husband on their traditional boat went to take some clean water before she was shot. The security apparatus stated that they shot her because she helped the gold burglary.

Eti, the third child of Imakulata who was shot to dead. He was once asked to go to a school with funds from a gold mine company where his mother was condemned guilty and being shot. But Eti only lasted 3 months at school. In addition, the company made a house with concrete material and provided two units of boats completed with boat engines.

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