Gallery - Mining for mobiles: devastation in Indonesia
24 November 2012
Friends of the Earth has found shocking evidence that mining tin that may end up in smartphones is destroying forests and farmland, choking coral reefs and devastating communities on Indonesia's Bangka islands.
Tin is a vital component in all phones and electronic gadgets and almost a third of the world's supply is from the islands and surrounding sea beds.
To help prevent problems like those in Bangka, our Make It Bettercampaign is calling for tough new laws to make sure phone manufacturers and other companies reveal the full social and environmental impacts of their supply chains.
Rohim, a fisherman from Rajik village, helped organise a petition to try to keep the huge mining boats that dredge the sea bed out of the bay. "Fishermen cannot cast a net around Rajik village because it has been spoilt by sea mining."
Waste pouring out of a tin mining ship as it dredges the sea bed off the coast in the District Payung area, Bangka, Indonesia. These dredgers work several kilometres offshore to a depth of about 50m, mining more than 3.5 million tonnes of material a month.
Edi mines tin in the shallow waters close to Rebu beach, although sea mining is banned within two miles of Bangka's coast. "I know this job is illegal, but I need the money. If I work as a labourer the wages are very low and it is difficult to buy food."
Excavators search for miners buried by landslides in a tin mine near Belo Laut village. The hunt for tin can be dangerous. Bangka police figures show that in 2011 an average of one miner a week died in an accident - double the rate of 2010.
A worker at a tin ore mine in District Sungai Liat, Bangka island. Many people have flocked to Bangka from other parts of Indonesia to mine for tin. Some work for big companies but there's also a growing number of people going it alone, often in dangerous conditions.
A sea miner separates sand and tin ore on a homemade raft, near Rajik village. The damage caused by giant dredging boats and sea mining rafts off Bangka's coast is forcing fishermen to work further away in more dangerous deep water in search of fish.
Azim is a fisherman from Rebu village. He joined his local fishermen's union when he noticed the decline in fish numbers. "I used to be a miner, but when I saw the bad impact I stopped. This beach used to be good before mining, it was white sand."
Aerial view of Bangka island. The tin mines have left a grey, sandy sub-soil peppered with craters where once there was lush forest and farmland. Efforts at restoration are limited and the big mining companies say they are frustrated by small groups of miners reopening old mines after they have left.
Unofficial miners operate a flotilla of homemade mining rafts, sucking up tin ore with diesel-powered pumps. Friends of the Earth Indonesia (Walhi) estimates about 2,500 such rafts are mining Bangka's coasts at any time. Mining within two miles of the shore is technically illegal but these rules are frequently ignored.
Community members gather to watch the search for four miners buried when a tin mine collapsed in Belo Sea village. It was later reported that two workers were found dead, one survived and one was unaccounted for.
A woman pans for tin ore on Rebu beach. A growing number of people are attracted to independent tin mining by the better money they can make compared to fishing or working as labourers. It's not illegal, but has no safety rules or environmental safeguards.
Villagers scramble for tin thrown by workers from a tin mine in Tanjung Pesona. The tin boom has provided many with jobs, but has its downside such as polluted drinking water and loss of soil fertility. This is making life harder for local families.
Pools of stagnant water and the cratered landscape of this PT Timah tin mine have replaced forest and farmland. Doctors suspect that many reported malaria cases in recent years might be linked to the hundreds of abandoned mines that fill with stagnant water, allowing mosquitoes that carry the malaria parasite to thrive.
Away from the destruction - Tanjung Pesona beach. Friends of the Earth is calling for tin buyers to bring together miners, fishermen, government and communities to agree a plan to halt the devastating impact of tin mining.
Tono, a worker in a Bangka turtle sanctuary, shows visitors an animal he's looking after. "It breaks our hearts that they are almost extinct here." The loss of nesting sites and food supplies like seagrass due to tin mining is a threat to Indonesia's endangered green turtles.
Pools of stagnant water in these pits where tin has been mined have replaced lush forest and farmland. The rapid spread of tin mining is turning parts of an Indonesian tropical island into a barren, cratered landscape. It's spoiling fresh water supplies and wrecking the lives of some local communities.
Waste pouring out of a tin mining ship as it dredges the sea bed off the coast in the District Payung area. Friends of the Earth is calling for an immediate ban on sea mining until it can be shown that it doesn't affect marine life and livelihoods.
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