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Illegal gold mining in Korowai, Papua

Jayapura, Jubi – Gold grains at the location of people’s gold mining are in the middle of the Korowai forest, Papua is a place to reap fortune and provide life for the citizens of the archipelago in the country.

Korowai tribe is a tribe that was only discovered 30 years ago in the interior of Papua. This isolated tribe lives in houses built on trees commonly called tall houses.

The height of the house built in the tree can reach 50 meters from the ground. Korowai tribe is one of the tribes in mainland Papua who do not wear koteka.

Gold mining in the Korowai region began with the opening of the trans-Yahukimo-Oksibil road. The road connects two districts, namely Yahukimo Regency and Bintang Mountains.

The road project has been carried out by PT .rantas and PT. Mika since 2015. The road passes through a portion of the Korowai area. The excavator used, when dredging the mountains around Korowai, came out gold grains.

However, the boss of PT.Brantas forbade his employees from taking it. Gold found left. The road project continues. In 2016, one businessman named Ungge, began to find out the location of the gold.

When searching, Ungge met two Korowai residents, they were Yulius Wikira and Lukas Yarik. Luke then led Ungge to point out where the gold was found.

At that time, Korowai residents did not know how to pan for gold, so only as spectators. Ungge exploits the ignorance of the residents in possession of the gold found. In fact, telling local residents to pan for gold.

For almost two years, Ungge dredged gold secretly. In 2017, it was discovered by the police that if gold was dredged illegally, he was finally arrested by the police.

After the arrest, the Papua Police Chief was then held by Inspector General Boy Rafli Amar and his entourage flying from Jayapura to Boven Digoel to meet each of the hamlet owners / owners of the mining site.

“At that time the Papua Regional Police meeting met with us, the hamlet owner, immediately asked me where the hamlet master was, after they told us that gold mining was illegal and had to be closed down,” said Mining 33 hamlet master, Ben Yarik.

Mining 33 is one of the mining areas of a number of mining locations. Since the meeting with the Polda, the request to close the mining location was rejected by the hamlet masters.

The hamlet master maintained the mining operation. Lukas Yarik, one of the hamlet masters, asked the Regional Police group not to be closed. If it is closed, it must finance each head of family of Rp1 billion per month.

From this demand, the Papua Regional Police requested the formation of a team to take care of the mining operation permit from the Governor of Papua.

In 2018 the team was formed, then left for Jayapura, met with the Governor of Papua, and the provincial Manpower Office. In 2019, the Papua Provincial Manpower Office, requested the formation of cooperatives to coordinate mining activities. The cooperative formed was named Senggaup Mining Cooperative.

Miner’s activity

Since 2019, the mining area has begun to get crowded. Miners come from all regions in the country. In fact, all tribes in Indonesia are at the location of the gold mine.

Maduk, one of the residents from Java who came to mine, said that the residents who came were scattered in a number of mining points, including mining locations 33, four houses, mining 94, mining 84 and mining 81.

This mining location is included in Kawinggon District, Gunung Bintang Regency. Miners build rudimentary dwelling houses with tiled roofs, wooden walls. Sleeping on a tent and sack.

For the sake of reaching for a bite of rice and the continuation of family life, said Maduk, they work to mine gold from morning to evening at 08.00 East Indonesian Time to 18.00 Eastern Indonesian Time.

“In the morning until the afternoon the people gain gold, in the evening they look for shrimp and fish in the river,” said Hengki Yaluwo, Head of Personnel at the Senggaup Mining Cooperative.

Most miners, forming groups to pan. Specifically in Mining 33, miners pan gold along the Orof river, the daeram river saplings.

Yohanis Nius Amikatum, one of the Korowai residents said that although panning in the river, the residents still maintain the cleanliness of the river which is used for cooking, drinking and bathing every day.

The community maintains and takes care of nature around the people’s mining area. Do not use mercury to search for gold. Do not litter the river.

Capital skillet and alkon machine used to search for sacks at that location. Alkon machine is used to pull material from the water then filtered and filled into the pan and then stirred until the remaining gold grains.

Gold barter

The gold obtained must be deposited to the land owner / lord of the hamlet. If not deposited, it will be removed from the mining location. Every week the owner / lord of the village gets a 10 gram to 30 gram gold ration. Hamlet premium is calculated from six working days.

In addition, gold is also used to exchange food ingredients. The value of money at the mining site does not apply. Miners barter goods with gold.

Large solar cigarette packs are exchanged for two glasses of gold, one can of milk is also exchanged for two glasses of gold. One carton is exchanged for four grams of gold, five supermi packs are exchanged for two glasses of gold.

Small sardine cans are exchanged for two glass of gold, while for large sizes exchanged for four glass of gold. One pack of salt is exchanged for one glass of gold, one kilo of sugar is exchanged for one glass of gold, half a pound of sugar is exchanged for two glasses of gold, coffee is also exchanged for two glasses of gold.

One pack of cigarettes is exchanged for two glass of gold, one cigarette slop is exchanged for one gram of gold. One sack of 25 kilos of rice is exchanged for 27 grams of gold. 10 kilo of rice is exchanged for four grams of gold.

“That’s the cheapest item. The most expensive item on the Samsung and Oppo brands was exchanged for 15 grams of gold, “said the Head of Public Relations of the Senggaup Mining Cooperative, Oktovianus Madai.

Oktovianus said, gold was also exchanged for fuel oil (BBM). 35 liters of gasoline oil are exchanged for eight grams of gold to 10 grams.

Before there was mining, Korowai residents did not know the food consumed by city people and cellphones. They only eat bananas, sweet potatoes and vegetables.

But, ever since there was mining, the lifestyle of Korowai residents at that location changed to follow the trend. Every day consume rice, supermi, and sardines like city people.

Starting from youth, elderly parents (elderly) to children holding android mobile phones, various brands. Although in the middle of the forest, there is a satellite wifi installation thanks to gold exchange, so you can call your family and relatives using an internet voucher that is also exchanged for gold.

Thanks to gold sales, hamlet owners and cooperatives set up generator sets. Wires and lights are purchased by each miner. At night, the mining site was brightly lit, like a small town in the middle of a forest.

Although life has changed like an urban person, there is no supply of liquor in the area, no bars and karaoke at the mining site.

The mining area is included in the Bintang Mountains Regency. The Mountains of Bintang Regent, Costan Otemka, said that the mining had been proposed last year to be closed.

However, the matter of mining closure is under the authority of the Provincial Government of Papua, because the location is between the Boven Digoel Regency, the Bintang Mountains, Mappi, Yahukimo and the Asmat Regency.

Through the Governor of Papua letter number 540/6583 / SET dated June 9, 2020 signed by the Deputy Governor of Papua Klemen Tinal, regarding the cessation of community mining activities due to COVID-19, the letter stated that taking into account the Boven Regent’s report related to corona, it was conveyed that the mining area had already been submitted to the Minister of Energy and Mineral Resources of the Republic of Indonesia to be determined as a people’s mining area (WPR) and is still in the process.

Yasminta Rhidian Wasaraka, environmental activity said that mining activity finally made the Daeram River run away. Erosion occurred on a large scale in the river.

“That affects the community’s search, meaning that people who used to be active in the village then eat fish, the river is polluted,” he said.

Before the Daeram River was polluted, it was not because of heavy metals but the water had run away due to mud from the mining activities, the river water was clear. People can dive to look for fish, now it is not.

The mining actually cuts off one of the Korowai people’s livelihoods.

“So then, like it or not, residents can’t eat fish anymore, hoping that fishing will not be possible in mud areas like that.

Communities around the Daeram river, bathing, washing along the river, it is impossible for people to bathe the dirty river again, this affects people’s health.

“So, economically we cannot catch fish, in a health river bathing is no longer clear,” he said. (* / Ant)

Editor: Victor Mambor

West Papua View All

This Blog has gone through many obstacles and attacks from violent Free West Papua separatist supporters and ultra nationalist Indonesian since 2007. However, it has remained throughout a time devouring thoughts of how to bring peace to Papua and West Papua provinces of Indonesia.

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