Mining for Gold and Copper in Indonesia

Gold is an extremely precious metal. Everyone knows it. It’s used everyday, from appliances such as phones and laptops, to jewellery and bracelets. Nearly as unreactive is copper, used in wiring. Both of these metals can be found in the easternmost islands and tropical rainforests of Indonesia, in New Guinea.

Freeport-McMoRan Mining Company, one of the worlds largest producers of copper and gold, mines an area of 3.6 million hectares in this part of Indonesia. It owns 76.6% of Grasberg, Papua province. The effects of mining in these areas have very severe consequences on the land and on the indigenous people.

Due to the golds proximity to the surface, companies use a method known as open-pit mining to dig into the ground. This means that they first have to destroy the rainforests that cover the land. Deforestation leads to loss of habitat for many animals, and loss of biodiversity we can’t begin to imagine. Once the land has been cleared, these companies begin to dig into the ground. The pollution caused by this leads to further harm to wildlife, in particular, the saltwater crocodile, native to these areas, and tortoises. 285,000 tonnes of untreated mining waste is dumped into the river Aghawaghon every day. If my maths is correct, that’s about 285,000,000 bottles of coke. Still quite hard to wrap your mind around, isn’t it. Consider that this waste is poisoning the fish and the animals which drink from this river. It kills plants and more importantly, it affects the indigenous people who use this water everyday, who eat the fish from this river and who drink it to survive.

If that’s not enough to make you question these companies and their effects on these lands, then ask yourself who works in these mines? Who slaves away, working for less than US$2 for every 10 hour day? Exploitation of local people is a problem that needs to be solved. Companies take advantage of the indigenous people and use them as cheap labour.

So next time you buy a laptop or a new necklace, stop for a moment and consider where it’s come from.

Grasberg Mine, West Papua:

grasberg mine, papua

KL Haze

Over the past week in South East Asia, you will no doubt have noticed the heavy haze hanging over cities such as Kuala Lumpur and Singapore, the effects of which have been placing countless numbers of people in hospital and closing schools all over the place.

The cause of this haze can be traced back to companies in Sumatra using slash and burn techniques to burn the rain forests down, rain forests home to over 10,000 plant species, and more than 200 mammals (UNESCO world heritage site – a 2.5 million hectare reserve alone.). Slash and burn is used by farmers in small areas of the forest, but it is currently being used by bigger palm oil industries in order to create palm oil plantations. However, the fires have been spreading and the Sumatran fire department is having trouble keeping them under hand. The fires are releasing countless numbers of carbon emissions into the atmosphere as well.

The result of which means that the smoke and haze is being blown up by a south west wind, falling directly over Singapore and KL. The quality of air, at its worst was 746 on the API scale. Also, June and July are some of the driest months of the year, and the lack of rain means the haze lingered. The annual KL marathon has had to be pushed back to September due to the unsafe quality of air.

I will, however, admit, that many student (including myself) were very happy about the extra 3 day holiday we got due to the haze!

Twin towers and central KL in haze

Twin towers and central KL in haze

The disadvantages of plastic bags

Suffocation

Infants and young children have died as a result of playing with plastic bags. Every year, the Consumer Product Safety Commission receives about 25 reports of plastic bags-infant death.Because of the thin,airtight material,infants can easily block their mouths and nostrils with the plastic bag and suffocate.

Effects
If not carefully disposed of,plastic bags can be devastating to animal life. “DEFRA”(Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)reported that 1,678,900 tons of plastic bags do not decay easily,they stay in environments longer,causing more build-up up on the nature stay landscape than a more degradable like paper would. The Marrickville Council reports that over 100’000 whales,turtles and birds die every year as a result of plastic in their environment.

Prevention/Solution
Abstaining from plastic bag use as much as possible will reduce the chances of accidental infant death, and it will reduce the amount of plastic waste in the environment.

A plastic bag is also reusable,though. it does not necessarily have to be thrown away after a single use. Try to use each plastic bag for as long as possible.
This will help reduce the number of plastic bags in circulation.