Gold’s Glitter Lures Prospectors in Central Sulawesi, Indonesia

Basri Marzuki

A gold prospector clambers up a hill in search of rocks that contain the precious metal. (BenarNews)


A miner chisels away at rock, hoping to extract traces of gold. (BenarNews)


Miners don’t just dig for gold in open quarries, but also underground. (BenarNews)


Workers pile up rocks containing gold for transportation to a local processing facility. (BenarNews)


A worker grinds the rock, in preparation for gold extraction. (BenarNews)


The ground rock is then stored in sacks. (BenarNews)


A worker installs a belt to rotate a drum containing ground rock and liquid cyanide, to extract the gold. (BenarNews)


Tailings from the extraction process are collected for reprocessing, because they can still contain traces of gold. (BenarNews)


A worker uses a cyanide solvent to filter out rock residue from traces of gold. (BenarNews)


The gold is put in a kiln to burn away any traces of silver clinging to it. (BenarNews)


A man holds up a nugget of gold after an extraction process that can take up to eight hours to produce 10 grams (0.35 ounces) of pure gold. (BenarNews)

Droves of traditional gold miners have descended with picks, hammers and shovels on the hamlet of Vatutempa, in Indonesia’s Central Sulawesi province.

They come to this spot in the vicinity of Palu from all corners of Sulawesi and outlying isles, hoping to find traces of the precious gold, hidden in rocks.

A miner can dig up at least five grams (0.17 ounces) of pure gold in a day's work. And, with the price of gold hovering around 300,000 rupiah (U.S. $21), a miner can earn up to 1.5 million rupiah (U.S. $105) a day.

Yet mining and quarrying activities have caused deforestation in the area, which sits within the Taman Hutan Rakyat conservation zone. Roughly 45 hectares (111 acres) of forest have been lost as a result, locals say.

The gold rush has also contaminated area waterways with cyanide and mercury, conservationists warn. Shrimpers in Palu Bay complain that the waters are tainted with these chemicals.

Even though local governments are aware of the environmental hazards caused by traditional mining, both commercial and traditional mining activities are still considered legal. The mining industry brings jobs and reduces crime rates in the area, thus posing a dilemma for policy makers.


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