Kutai Kartanegara. A mining watchdog has called on authorities in East Kalimantan to crack down on coal mining companies for not restoring their disused pits, after a child drowned in one of the rainwater-filled craters.
Kahar Al Bahri, the coordinator of the East Kalimantan branch of the Mining Advocacy Network (Jatam), told the Jakarta Globe on Wednesday that the latest accident, which occurred in Kutai Kartanegara district on Tuesday, brought to 11 the number of confirmed deaths of people drowning in disused mining pits since 2011.
“We estimate that throughout East Kalimantan there are at least 500 such pools left behind from coal mining pits that the operators never bothered to fill back in,” he said. “It’s a wonder that we don’t have more victims, given that these pits aren’t fenced off or marked by signs, and that many of them are in close proximity to residential areas.”
Adj. Comr. Sigit Satria Hutomo, the chief of the Sanga-Sanga subprecinct police in Kutai Kartanegara, confirmed that an 11-year-old boy had drowned after falling into a pool at a mining concession previously operated by the company Muliana Jaya.
The pit is located around 100 meters from a residential area.
“We understand that this mining concession has been inactive for the past several months, but we still need to confirm this with the district authorities,” Sigit said.
He added that if it was confirmed that the site was a disused mining concession, the company could face charges for not filling in the pit and not fencing off the entire area.
“These pools that form can be several meters deep, so they’re very dangerous for children,” he said.
Kahar said the sheer number of coal mining sites, both active and abandoned, throughout East Kalimantan indicated that the authorities did not take the issue of concession restoration seriously.
“The police haven’t taken a single legal step,” he said.
“The typical disused mining pit measures 40 to 50 meters in diameter and is three meters deep. So obviously they’re very dangerous for young children, and the water that collects inside them can also be toxic. It’s unfortunate, though, that this problem doesn’t receive more attention.”