Mining conflicts in Lumajang, Indonesia

Dr Indah Dwi Qurbani (pictured left) is a Lecturer at the Faculty of Law, University of Brawijaya, Indonesia and an alumnus of the IM4DC 2014 course on Minerals Policy and Economics. Indah has been researching mining conflicts in Lumajang, Indonesia.

Lumajang is a regency located in East Java with a population of over one million people. It is rich in iron sand with the average iron content between 30 to 40 percent and other minerals including titanium, vanadium, nickel and cobalt. Products of sand mining from Lumajang are widely used in the production of cement, toner for ink cartridges, tape, paint dye, and for the production of permanent magnets.

Based on 2010 data from the Indonesian Department of Transportation, more than 500 sand trucks with a capacity of 3-16 tonnes leave Lumajang every day. This iron sand is mostly mined illegally - miners often don’t have proper permits; or if they do, have obtained the permits illegally; or otherwise inconsistent mining and land regulations and poor management of licensing systems favours corrupt government officials and miners at the expense of the local community.

It is estimated that since 2011, illegal mining in Lumajang is valued at 11.5 trillion rupiah (1.14 billion Australian dollars).

The abundance of iron rich sand has led to an influx of people mining illegally and mining conflicts. In 2015, conflict between farmers and miners resulted in the death of an activist. In her research, Indah sought to understand the sources of conflict, going beyond media reports that have pointed the finger at miners and farmers.

From her observations, interviews and literature review, mining conflicts in Lumajang stem from issues related to  land ownership between communities, miners and mining companies;  hostile interactions between miners and community; the legality of mining activities; environmental degradation and inconsistent mining regulations. With conflicts existing between all stakeholders,  including at various levels of government between district government, provincial government, and the central government.

Indah lists 16 sources of conflict that include loss of agriculture land, lack of compensation to local communities, interests of local, provincial and central government, environmental degradation and locals not involved in mining. She recommends that East Java Provincial Government should undertake the following - urgently develop and strengthen the mining database; establish a technical implementation unit specifically to handle the issue of mining permits; immediately arrange and systematise mining business licenses; conduct environmental supervision; and empower communities around the mining area.


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