World Rainforest Movement

Women’s Life Devastated by Mining

More than 35 % of Indonesian upland territory has been licensed as mining concessions, of which 11.4 million hectares is located within protected areas. However, the mine sector’s contribution to the Indonesian government’ s net income is only 2% -4%. The amount is unequal to the impacts caused by the sector toward local people and the environment across the Indonesian archipelago.

One of the islands most suffering from mining activities is Kalimantan (Borneo), and particularly eastern Kalimantan. The island of Borneo has a width of 10% of the total area of Indonesia and is inhabited by 2.5 million people who live in 1,276 villages. The male and female population is balanced. The main livelihood of the people is farming, artisan fishing and nursery shrimp breeding.

There are at least 106 mining companies operating in Kaltim (East Kalimantan) with a total concession area of 44.85% of the island’s width. With the addition of areas of private forest concessions (HPH and HTI) these extractive industries manage concession areas of up to 73.07 % of East Kalimantan’s territory.

Although men and women together have been impoverished by the invasion of capital, women tend to be more affected by it than men do. They have been evicted from their plantations so that they cannot earn an income and become dependent on other family members.

The impoverishment of women mostly takes place in villages. Based on information from the Central Bureau for Statistics (BPS), 75% of citizen poverty is found in rural areas, while urban poverty only accounts for 25%. Thus, it is suggested that the exploitation of natural resources does not significantly increase people’s wealth and even causes poverty.

Cases of poverty are also found in locations where mine companies operate. According to field investigations carried out by the Work Team on Mine and Women (TKPT) Kaltim, women suffer problems that are brought about by mining companies’ operational activities.

* Economic impacts:
Mine industry concessions always overlap with the sites of people’s livelihoods. The theft of people’s lands has taken place at oil and gas mining and also at coal mining locations. For example, the people of the village of Sekerat have been victimized by PT. Kaltim Prima Coal (KPC)/ Rio Tinto, the biggest coalmine company in South-east Asia. Some 20,482 hectares belonging to 287 households have been taken, which implies that there are 287 women whose livelihoods have been destroyed or altered. Female artisan fishers living in Bagang kampong, near to the oil and gas mine location of PT UNOCAL, have received the impact of fluid waste dumped by the company into sea water. The fish catch of artisan fishers in the village of Rapak Lama declined for this reason.

The women of the village of Terusan work as Benur (shrimp offspring) collectors, now earn lower income as well. Women and children use Porok and Rumpong to collecting shrimps. They used to place this equipment on the coast, or in deeper places, such as the edge of mangroves and the Nipah forest around the river mouth. The decline of this shrimp collecting has reached 95%

* Social impacts:
Mining operations have resulted in an alteration of the traditional rules that used to be respected. Facts suggest that prostitution is now present in all mining concession areas to serve the needs of male mine workers. Families frequently quarrel internally at places where there is prostitution, usually ending up with violence against women.
Violence against women that has taken place includes violence, either carried out in terms of state/military power or in terms of sexual violence such as sexual harassment and rape. Of all 21 cases of sexual violence against women, 17 are cases of extreme violence against women (rape), and 16 of all cases were conducted by KEM employees. Those cases all happened between 1987-1997.

Land occupation by PT. KPC has also brought about impacts by increasing women’s work volume because men who used to work on farms, now work as loggers or fishermen, making them stay out of home longer. As a result, more household problems are handled by women themselves, while in fact they have lost their access to economic independence due to eviction. Women’s economic self-reliance has vanished. This has placed women in a lower position than men.

* Environmental Impacts:
PT KEM/Rio Tinto operations have devastated women’s environment. Air pollution from dust from the company’s roads has caused respiratory, eye, and stomach diseases. It has also disrupted people’s businesses such as that of shops selling food and beverages, the growth of crops, landscapes and has also resulted in water contamination by cyanide, causing death to fish.

The presence of mining companies has in fact threatened both women’s productive and reproductive roles. A significant reproductive role of women is maintaining the family’s quality of health by increasing traditional knowledge on herbal medicinal and health keeping. However, since much community land was occupied by companies, many medicinal plant species have become rare or even extinct. Now they must pay to purchase medicines at drugstores.

The loss of women’s cultivation sites has eliminated the productive role of women and women’s access and control to the economic sector where principally, the people’s access to production assets such land also supports their access to things like politics, information and decision-making as well as other social relationships.

The dark picture of women victimized by mining in east Kalimantan has been worsened by the scant contribution provided by all parties, including state, public, even NGOs to women’s matters. This is understandable, since the State or capital paradigm still uses a family-based approach when discussing mining problems. This paradigm is originated by the generalized idea that men usually act as the family head, democratically representing all members’ interests. Ratification of “the Convention on the Elimination of All forms of discrimination Against Women (CEDAW)” has apparently contributed nothing to defend the interests of women victimized by mining operations.

Scant government attention is given to problems relating to women. This is obvious in the fact that there is no women’s perspective in the newly established mining Act. Even though the president of Indonesia is a woman, the newly established oil and gas Act no. 22/2001 has no such regard of women’s problems and interests.

Adapted and excerpted from: “Picture of Women’s Life Devastation by Mining In East Kalimantan, Indonesia”, by Haris Retno Susmiyati, sent by Siti Maimunah, JATAM, E-mail: , . The full version of the article is available at:

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