The Role of the Church in Anti-Mining Actions in Manggarai NTT

Started from sporadic action in a number of villages, the rejection of mining in the greater area of Manggarai, NTT Province continuously draw attention from national and international communities. Slowly but sure, citizen action leads to change a number of mining policies, such as tighten Mining Bussiness License (IUP) issuance to moratorium. Citizen action in Manggarai proves that the social movement for improved management of natural resources would be not impossible. The experience of groups of citizen in rejection of mining operation in villages in Manggarai Regency, East Nusa Tenggara is the main theme of discussion on Thursday (6/8). The keynote speaker of the discussion is Fr Simon Suban Tukan SVD, Coordinator of the Movement of Justice Peace and Integrity of Creation (JPIC) SVD Ruteng. Fr Simon explained the long process of consolidating actions in a number of villages in Manggarai into solid social movement with wide-ranging impacts. The rejection of mining activities can not be separated from expectations of the people on welfare that is promised but not yet fulfilled. Mining activities in NTT is far from providing welfare. Mining activities in Manggarai have not benefited to people livelihood. Agents of Energy and Mineral Resources NTT Province noted that there are 412 Mining Business License (IUP) with a total area of mining to reach nearly 1 million hectares. This area is quite large compared to the size of NTT islands. Moreover, only about 25 percent IUP gained clean and clear (CnC) status. CnC status is an indicator that a mining operation comply with the law and concern on the environment at the same time. In the meanwhile, the rate of poverty in NTT is one of the highest in Indonesia. According to Central Statistics Agency (BPS), 991,880 people are living with poverty in 2014. The poverty rate covers 19.6 percent of the total population in NTT or above national average which amounted to 10.96 percent. This number puts NTT is the fifth largest of the poor number in Indonesia. "Mining can improve the life. But where the mine is located, there is no prosperous society. We need ethical behavior to keep the earth and care the life together, "said Father Simon, Thursday (6/8). This commitment, according to Father Simon, encourage clergy and churches in Manggarai to support the civil society movement resisting mining activities in Manggarai. According to Father Simon, mining activities have destroyed the earth of Manggarai in the whole of community life, from ecology to kinship. Mining companies have destroyed forest and water resources as well as have divided family ties by money. The story of mining in Manggarai have been introduced by the Dutch colonial government with the discovery of metal and minerals in the region of Manggarai. However, the opening of the mine on a massive scale occurred in the 1980s by the penetration of a number of mining companies followed by the military forces. The mines site is often overlapping with community lands leading to the practices of evictions. This exploitation is as unstoppable since the mid-1990s. One of the blurred portrait of mining activities is in Kampung Sirise, East Manggarai. Women work sorting manganese and limestone while the men work with heavy equipment for years without any guarantee of safety and health.