Tin is an essential element in consumer electronics and Indonesia is now its biggest exporter. But its poverty stricken miners work in horrendous conditions and the human and environmental toll is proving costly.
“The most dangerous is when we are buried. I was traumatized”, says 25-year-old Yuri, who risks his life illegally diving for tin off the coast. In addition to a steadily rising death toll, local ecosystems are being ravaged by massive deforestation, water pollution, soil depletion and the collapse of fish stocks. “It will take centuries, thousands of years before everything can return to normal”, says biologist Eddy Nurtjahya. The Islands of Bangka and Belitung are experiencing a tin rush and with a laissez-faire government and rampant corruption, many are now seeking international pressure to help curb this illegal trade. “If the government doesn’t take immediate action Bangka and Belitung will get poorer and poorer.”