Approaches to manganese mining in West Timor, Indonesia
: perspectives, values, beliefs and sustainability

  • Hannah Jane Ling

    Student thesis: Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) - CDU


    There is a growing momentum globally to situate artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM) as a positive livelihood activity due to its potential to contribute to sustainable development. This discourse has acknowledged the significant negative impacts of past mineral governance and large-scale mining activities on local communities, particularly rural and indigenous peoples who may adhere to different perspectives, values and beliefs than mainstream society worldviews. Furthermore, local people’s views are rarely considered in policy, management and governance of mineral resources.

    The aim of this PhD research was to investigate local worldviews, consisting of perspectives, values and beliefs, which define the role of manganese mining in contributing to sustainable livelihoods and development in West Timor, Indonesia. The research was guided by four objectives regarding: 1) the distribution, practice and characteristics of manganese mining in West Timor; 2) the range of perspectives and values towards positive and negative impacts of manganese mining as a livelihood strategy; 3) the influence of local beliefs on different approaches to manganese mining; and 4) current policies and governance systems that constrain or support manganese mining as a sustainable livelihood.

    The research applied a grounded theory approach. Over ten months of fieldwork, 133 semi-structured and key informant interviews were conducted with miners, village leaders and landholders across ten locations. Discussions were also held with government employees, company managers and NGOs in each district. Data were analysed qualitatively using three frameworks – a perspectives, values and beliefs framework and a cyclical worldview framework, applied to investigate the diversity and dynamic nature of responses to mining, and the sustainable livelihoods framework to assess mining livelihoods.

    Manganese mining started in 2007, and quickly spread across all five districts, engaging approximately 350,000 people by 2012. Manganese mining differs significantly from other forms of ASM. Local people who practiced mining viewed it as a positive livelihood option, commonly combined mining with existing agricultural activities and were able to address the minimal negative impacts. However where manganese mining was undertaken by a company using heavy machinery there were decreased benefits to communities and higher levels of negative environmental and social impacts. There was a diversity of beliefs applied to manganese mining, leading some communities to choose not to mine, whereas others protected sacred areas or used rituals to permit the extraction of manganese.

    The tendency for government to favour mining companies over community-based ASM and view it as “illegal” has stifled the potential of ASM to contribute to local livelihoods. Policy and governance improvements, including recognition of local rights over mineral resources and acknowledging the positive contributions of ASM to local livelihoods, will enable more sustainable outcomes from mining in Indonesia.
    Date of AwardDec 2018
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorNatasha Stacey (Supervisor), Rohan Fisher (Supervisor) & Wayan Mudita (Supervisor)

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