Mining in West Papua: Its Impact on Society and the Environment

Understanding the Mining Process in West Papua

Mining in West Papua is familiar because it has been around for decades. The presence of the mining industry in West Papua, of course, leaves both good and bad impacts on the community or the local environment.

If you are curious about the impact of gold mining in Papua or other mines, find the answers in the following article!

Various Impacts of Mining in West Papua

Impact from Mining in West Papua

With the presence of various types of mines in West Papua Province, there are at least several sectors in people’s lives that are affected, namely:

Environment

The environment will have the most pronounced effect because mining operations are carried out in natural areas. Some of the impacts of mining on environmental aspects in West Papua include:

1. Landscape Change

This change occurs in mining using open pit techniques. The open pit or open pit mining technique is carried out by turning hills into plains or puddles.[1]  This can cut off the flow of rivers so that some areas can become dry.

2. Agricultural Drought

Access to water on agricultural land can be in debt because water sources are controlled by mining parties or because of dust from mining activities.

3. Leaving Critical Land

The land will be abandoned after it is no longer operational and the company stops its activities. Critical land is land that is unproductive or has low productivity. [2] The amount of critical land in Papua is currently at least around 393,371 hectares, where one of the contributors is mining activity. 

Social

Some of the social impacts of mining activities that the community will feel include:

1. Pros and Cons Team

When mining opens, or operations occur, the community may split into two groups. This is because there are different perspectives on the focus on mining. If there is no agreement, sometimes horizontal conflicts can occur.

It is disturbing local people’s management area. As a result of operations and mining waste disposal, areas managed by the local people can be problematic. This can then lead to conflict between the affected communities and mining companies.

2. Impact on Public Health

Mine areas that are filled with dust materials and so on harm the health of the community around the mine. Some targeting diseases include ARI (Acute Respiratory Infection), digestive disorders, itching, and death.

Former mines claimed human lives. The location of a former mine that is not considered can threaten the lives of the surrounding community, especially children. Former mining puddles with stagnant water can attract children to play without parental supervision.[3]

Economy

If the environmental and social impacts are dominated by damaging things, then on the economic aspect, there is one impact that is quite significant, namely the increase in the Gross Regional Domestic Product (GDP).

The presence of mining companies in the West Papua region helps make a significant contribution to the province’s GRDP. 2013, for example, its contribution to Papua’s PRDB was around 3.77%.[4] 

Meanwhile, in 2021, West Papua’s economic growth is improving; one contributor is the mining sector, which is increasingly producing good results.[5] 

Even though there is a positive impact, it is undeniable that in a smaller scope of society, they do not feel a significant impact from the presence of mines on their economy. 

Primarily if mining companies use more workers from outside Papua, the employment opportunities for the local community will not be too good.

But that doesn’t mean that mining companies don’t employ native Papuan children at all. PT. As the largest mining company in Papua, Freeport continues to attract indigenous people.

But that doesn’t mean that mining companies don’t employ native Papuan children at all. PT. As the largest mining company in Papua, Freeport continues to attract indigenous people. It is proven that in 2021, it is recorded that there more than 40%) workers who are native Papuans.  [5] 

Seeing the positive and negative impacts of mining in West Papua, its presence needs to be studied and paid more attention so that the community and the environment will get more positive impacts.