These interviews with Sarah Agustio from Indonesian mining advocacy network JATAM and Indonesian PhD student Siti Maimunah were filmed during ‘Extracting Us’, a photography exhibition held in ONCA gallery, Brighton, UK, from 11-21 July 2019.
Indonesia exports 80 percent of its coal, yet pays a heavy price from its production and the mine waste left behind.
Sarah discusses what life has been like for her family and community, growing up in East Kalimantan, Borneo, in the shadow of coal mines, and what happens when mining companies leave. The mining legacy of mining companies, including London-listed Rio Tinto, have left tonnes of tailings (mining sludge) in their wake and since 2011, 35 children have died by falling into or drowning in abandoned coal pits in this corner of Borneo.
Ten-year-old Ahmad Setiawan died most recently, on 22 June, after drowning in a disused water-filled coal pit near Samarinda, the capital of East Kalimantan. His death was the third of its kind in 2019. Children and young people fall into these former mines while playing near them or have drowned while swimming in them.
Mai explains the importance for of framing climate change in a wider lens than carbon emissions; Indonesians are already feeling the effects of climate breakdown. Despite the UK government’s recent ‘climate emergency’ announcement, at Indonesia’s Infrastructure Investment Forum in London on 2 July, British investors – eager to widen the net post-Brexit – sought out investment opportunities, some of which include fossil fuel projects in Indonesia such as the Central Java Coal Power plant and the development of four airports.
The Indonesian president has since spoken of his intention to reduce the country’s use of coal, running counter to his government’s long-term plans of meeting growing domestic energy demands with it. Some 39 coal-fired plants are currently under construction, and a further 68 are planned.