The Jakarta Post
Illegal gold mining activities, earlier concentrated in the Sekotong district of West Lombok, West Nusa Tenggara, have currently spread to areas within the Central Lombok regency.
Authorities are concerned the gold mines, which are traditionally operated by local residents, could endanger their lives and damage the environment.
The West Nusa Tenggara (NTB) provincial administration has not been able to stop illegal gold mines from spreading across the island because it does not have the mandate to do so.
Heriyadi Rachmat, NTB energy and mineral resources office head, told The Jakarta Post that at least 15 gold mines existed in Central Lombok, scattered across two districts.
Data from the Central Lombok energy and mineral resources office shows the illegal gold mines are located in the hilly parts of Central Lombok, such as Gunung Woje and Gunung Sangkong in the Pujut district, and in a number of villages in the Northwest Praya district.
Heriyadi added residents had been operating the traditional mines in Central Lombok since the West Lombok regency administration had curbed mines operating in the Sekotong district in June this year.
Miners from Central Lombok later returned home and opened mines there, despite the lack of gold deposits there.
"Observations show that miners have already dug holes in the traditional mines in Central Lombok. They are trying to find out if there's gold there like in Sekotong, despite the small quantities of gold deposits there," said Heriyadi.
He added that gold mining carried out by residents in Sekotong, West Lombok, or in Central Lombok, was categorized as illegal because a 2007 ordinance prohibiting gold mining on Lombok Island was still valid.
The ordinance prohibits gold mining on Lombok Island because of its small size, and Galian C category mining activities, which includes gold mining, could harm the environment.
However, given the potential gold deposits in the island, a number of regency administrations in Lombok have submitted a proposal to revise the ordinance, including West Lombok.
The NTB provincial administration, said Heriyadi, was waiting for the outcome of the ordinance revision currently being deliberated in the NTB legislature.
He added that one of the key factors to curb illegal gold mining in West and Central Lombok was a revision of the 2007 ordinance.
The NTB provincial, as well as the Central and West Lombok regency administrations are currently shutting down illegal gold mines.
In West Lombok, for instance the local administration shut down traditional gold mines in Sekotong, although mining was still being carried out covertly in the absence of police and district officers.
In Central Lombok, the local administration has called on every village head to prohibit residents from engaging in gold mining activities.