Jakarta – The Mining Advocacy Network (Jatam) is urging President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo to temporarily halt operations by mining companies around the country which they believe are neglecting workers' safety in the midst of the corona pandemic (Covid-19).
Jatam national campaign head Melky Nahar revealed that between March 31 and May 4 they monitored a number of mines which are still operating around the country including in Sulawesi, Maluku, Banyuwang and Papua.
The results, said Nahar, was that they found several of the mines which are still operating were neglecting worker safety and putting workers at risk in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic.
"In general mining companies in several regions are still and are continuing to operate, because they are averse to suffering economically, but they are neglecting workers' safety, and worsening the risk of harm", said Nahar during a Zoom video conferencing online discussion on Wednesday May 6.
Nahar continued saying that they found a number of problems at these companies ranging from the exploitation of workers, minimal healthcare faculties, intimidation and criminalisation to dismissals and employees being furloughed.
Nahar believes that the mining companies which are still employing workers during the pandemic are doing so because they do not want to incur financial losses and are doing so by neglecting workers' safety.
Moreover, two mining companies in Central Sulawesi and North Maluku have provided a mess for their workers to eat at in order to maintain production performance.
This situation, continued Nahar, actually increases the health and safety risks for workers – not just the risk of being infected by the corona virus but also the danger of other illnesses.
The consequence of this is that a number of workers at these companies have been declared Covid-19 positive. At one of them – the PT Freeport Indonesia gold and copper mine in Papua – as many as 51 employees have been declared Covid-19 positive. Nevertheless, said Nahar, the company management has decided that the mine will continue operating.
"For them, workers who don't want to work won't be paid. The sanction is 'no work no pay' and no guarantee of reemployment if they return to work", he said.
Nahar estimates that similar cases have occurred at other mining companies which are still operating. Although it is difficult to confirm because no mass testing is being done and the companies' lack transparency.
Furthermore, Nahar said that they are also highlighting news of the entry of foreign workers (TKA) from China. This situation, he said, contradicts the government's position on restricting social activities in order to push down the number of Covid-19 cases in Indonesia.
"The arrival of the Chinese TKAs in the midst of the Covid-19 epidemic, shows how the government is giving more priority to investment and corporate interests rather than the safety of the ordinary people and the TKAs themselves", said Nahar. (thr/bac)
[Translated by James Balowski. The original title of the article was "Jokowi Didesak Tutup Tambang yang Abai Selama Pandemi".]