Socio-ecological disaster of Lapindo Mudflow tragedy, which is has been occurring for 17 years today, become an important mark showing that development model depending on extractives triggers irreversible socio-ecological disaster, instead of bring prosperity for the people, This tragedy must be a strong reason for state officials to star stopping dependency on extractive industry either as an energy generation or economical support.

The Lapindo mudflow in Porong, Sidoarjo buried 1.143 hectares of land in 19 villages and forced 22.214 residents into displacement. Even worse, Lapindo victims’ suffering is still prolonged until today, where local water sources are contaminated by heavy metals and the residents inhale poisonous gases from the Lapindo hot mudflow every day. They are even under threat of civil-political robbery because of the plan to remove four affected villages administratively, which are Renokenongo village, Kedung Bendo village, Besuki village, and Ketapang village.

This industrial disaster tragedy became the first milestone of the Anti-Mining Day (HATAM), which was first commemorated on 29 May 2011. HATAM is a real commemoration of the destructive power of the extractives industry which is unstoppably harvesting the social-ecological disasters.

The social-ecological disasters emerge from this mining industry, not only happen in the case of Lapindo, but also happen and enlarge in many places, no matter if it is people settlements, protective-conservation areas, prone-disaster areas, or coastal areas and small islands. Even destruction of life spaces of the people by this extractive industry are done by adopting climate crises narratives – a crisis that obviously created by extractive industry operation itself; covering mining industry operation by using energy transition jargon, low-carbon economy, environmental-friendly technology, and clean and renewable energy.

This is happening, for instance, in the geothermal industry which is claimed as eco-friendly, clean and renewable energy. Terror to people’s daily life keep occurring, from the land grabbing of people’s productive lands,  extraction and pollution of water sources , air pollution by hydrogen dioxide (H2S), noise pollution from well drilling deployment and dismantling machinery, the assembly of giant steam pipes, giant turbines for power generator, and installation of transmission and distribution wires.

This situation is happening to more than 350 targeted sites for geothermal drilling throughout the Indonesian archipelago. This whole chain of electricity business operation with geothermal mining, including production process of regulations and as an essential commodity for this dangerous industry, demands people to voluntarily give up their liberty, revoke their rights, even to sacrifice their life as victims. This was what happened in Sorik Marapi on 25 January 2021, where five residents including two children were poisoned by the hydrogen dioxide (H2S) from a geothermal power plant project owned by PT Sorik Marapi Geothermal Power.

Even so, people’s resistance against this geothermal extraction is also strengthened in various areas. In Wae Sano, Poco Leok, Flores, the geothermal power plants have failed to operate because of the refusal and resistance of the people. The same thing is also done by the people in Padarincang, Serang Regency, who successfully blocked an operational plan of geothermal mining in Mount Prakasak by PT Sintesa Banten Geothermal.

The efforts of mining corporations to cover operations that destroy people’s living space under the subterfuge of a low-carbon and environmentally friendly economy do not only occur in the geothermal industry. The same thing is also done by mining corporations in the nickel industry. Under the subterfuge of developing an electric vehicle ecosystem, which is heavily promoted by the current state administrators, the nickel industry destroys the living space of residents, especially in eastern Indonesia. Not to mention the hundreds of thousands of tons of coal that continue to be extracted and supplied to smelters in the nickel processing industry area, which exacerbates the destruction in Kalimantan.

The expansion of the nickel industry on behalf of electric vehicles, which are claimed to be environmentally friendly and low carbon, has occurred on Obi Island in North Maluku and Wawonii Island in Southeast Sulawesi, both of which are connected to the bad footprint of one of a giant mining corporation in Indonesia namely the Harita Group.

Nickel extraction done by companies under the Harita Group has left prolonged destructive power that is also unrecoverable; starting from big-scale land clearance, water, air and sea pollutants impacting people’s health and the ecosystem, forests’ demolitions triggering deforestation, as well as recurring violence to the local residents.

On Obi Island, almost all of the residents’ water sources are polluted by nickel ore sedimentation as a result of nickel company operation. Nowadays, people have to spend money to buy clean water; while those who come from a low-income family and cannot afford the money, are forced to keep depending on the polluted water source.

On the other hand, the company also used a sneaky tactic by trespassing lands in the first place and carried out negotiations with the owners after occupying them. This tactic is not only a disadvantage for the people, but also narrows the people’s choices defending their land that is already being destroyed and surrounded by mining operations. At the same time, the company claimed that the lands they forcibly occupy are under the state ownership, even though the people pay for their taxes. Ironically, the land grabbing process is covered by violence and intimidations, even those residents who refuse their land being evicted are confronting repressive actions from state apparatus and the companies.

The similar thing also happens in another nickel mining area owned by Harita Group on Wawonii Island, South-East Sulawesi, operated by  PT Gema Kreasi Perdana (GKP). Since its operation on Wawonii, PT GKP has repeatedly breaking-through lands of those who refuse mining operations. It has been happening since 9 July 2019, 16 July 2019, 22 August 2019, 19 February 2023, and the most recent one on 9 March 2023.

The land-breaching, which caused plants and crops to die, such as cashew, cloves, nutmegs, cacao, and coconut trees, often guarded by armed police. Ironically, those people who refuse to give up their lands have to face repressive action from the armed-police instead. Until now, at least 35 residents have been criminalised by PT GKP. They were charged with various articles, ranging from accusations of destruction, deprivation of liberty, obstructing mining operations, to defamation articles using the ITE Law.

PT GKP’s operations have also polluted residents’ water sources. The Tambo Siu-Siu River in Sukarela Jaya Village, which is used for washing, bathing and drinking water, has turned yellow-brown due to the construction of the company’s hauling road. Residents have been forced to look for other water sources that are located further away from their homes with no better quality.

Unfortunately, the extractives are still dominating, even strengthening nowadays. This can be seen in the generation of a number of laws made, which strengthened oligarchy in the state. The business and political oligarchy in its recent episode today is also supported by army deployment in order to create open violence which has actually been happening in a longer period of time.

The investments in extractive industry has become the easiest option for state administrators, so that regulations are made for the interest of the extractive industry; starting from the Regulation of the Government of the Republic of Indonesia (Peraturan Pemerintah) Number 142 of 2015 on Industrial Estate, in which an article allows the industry to have an exception in environmental permit as a licensing obligation. Then, the Regulation of the Government of the Republic of Indonesia (Peraturan Pemerintah) Number 24 of 2018 on the Online Single Submission system, which allows companies to have permission at the first place, meanwhile their environmental permit may catch up gradually.

This investment red carpet is also marked by the revision of Law Number 4 of 2009 on Mineral and Coal Mining into Law Number 3 of 2020, as well as the Job Creation Law and its derivative regulations. This interest-biassed legal infrastructure has led to policies that accommodate the interests of industry players, impoverish citizens and damage the environment. As a result, national development, which is more synonymous with economic growth, is increasingly far from equality. This development concept only creates new conglomerations that are isolated from most of the community and are not friendly to environmental sustainability.

On this Anti-Mining Day 2023, we call on citizens across the Indonesian archipelago to continue to resist and challenge the colonialism of extractive industries. Also demand that the current state administrators stop all deceptions of the energy transition narrative to smooth mining extraction and the destruction of people’s living space.

Contact Person:

  1. Muh. Jamil, JATAM – 082156470477
  2. Harwati, Lapindo Mudflow Victim – 081332281826