Jakarta – Members of the Hongana Manyawa tribe, the indigenous people of East Halmahera, North Maluku, have reportedly blocked heavy equipment from entering the Aki Sangaji River in a bid to prevent logging ahead of nickel-mining activities in the forests of Mount Topu Blewen.
The incident, recorded on a video that was posted on social media by rights group Survival International, occurred on Oct. 26. The heavy equipment belonging to a nickel company arrived at the river area, resulting in direct contact with the Hongana Manyawa people who protested the activity.
Nickel mined from their land will end up in electric car batteries.
A local resident told CNN Indonesia that the Hongana Manyawa people carried spears and machetes but did not attack. "They only prevented the company from entering their forest," said the source who preferred to remain anonymous, on Thursday.
The action is the latest incident in the tribe's campaign of opposition to the nickel company. Due to deforestation caused by the nickel-mining activities, some 300 Hongana Manyawa people have been forced out of the forest. Elderly residents have been temporarily evacuated from the forest to a village on the coast.
"They [Hongana Manyawa] keep signaling that this is their home, their forest. They [the company] cannot enter and destroy the forest," the source added.
According to the source, the Hongana Manyawa people are having difficulties accessing clean water. Water from springs has become undrinkable because of mud resulting from the logging and nickel-mining activities.
The tribe has repeatedly prevented the company from conducting mining activities on Mt Topu Blewen's forests since 2020. However, their protests have been largely disregarded. The company has been active in the forest since 2018. It is believed that the company has been exploring the area since 1998.
Another mining company is also alleged to have displaced dozens of families from the tribe when exploiting the forest of Mount Ake Jira.