Jon Afrizal, Jambi – A search and rescue team has recovered the bodies of all six victims killed in the collapse of an illegal gold mine in Pulau Baru village, Merangin regency in Jambi on Sunday.
Jambi's National Search and Rescue Agency (Basarnas) spokesman Mujahid said the gold mine collapsed around 1 p.m. local time burying five illegal miners and one local resident.
"The workers hailed from Central Java. The one victim from a nearby village came down to the site to look for gold with the permission of the workers," he said on Monday.
The team dug down 15 meters into the mine wreckage for two days straight to reach the bodies.
Mujahid added that the land belonged to a local resident, who rented the site to two businesspeople, identified only by their initials W and B, for alleged illegal gold mining.
The miners processed gold ore by means of dompeng a method that uses mercury – a chemical that poses severe threats to human health.
They dumped the mercury in the nearby Masumai River, turning the water a murky brown. Residents from the nearby villages have stopped using water from the polluted river over health concerns.
"The river flows to Jambi city. Just imagine the health problems suffered by Jambi residents from consuming the polluted river water in the next few years," said Rudy Syaf, the chairman of the environmental group Warsi Indonesian Conservation Community (KKI Warsi).
According to KKI Warsi, illegal mining activities have been detected on 33,832 hectares of land across 11 regencies in Jambi province. Sarolangun regency topped the list with 14,126 ha of land turned into illegal mines.
The environmental group also recorded a major increase in illegal mining areas in Merangin regency from 4,556 ha in 2016 to 12,349 ha in 2019.