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NEWS

ISSUE 66

GETTING READY IN LOMBOK!

NARMADA… Water of Life!

LOMBOK TOURISM BOARD UNDER INVESTIGATION

WHAT'S HOT!

ELECTRICITY PROTESTS CONTINUE

LOCAL SCENE

MR FIXER

BUSINESSES TO PAY NEW ENVIRONMENT SERVICE FEE

PROPERTY LAWS CONTINUE TO DISAPPOINT

POISONING PARADISE!

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GETTING READY IN LOMBOK!

Welcome to The Lombok Guide – Lombok’s complete tourism paper and your guide to the best that the island has to offer. The Lombok Guide is published on Lombok every two weeks and contains valuable information for all visitors to our magical island.

As we reach the middle of June, Lombok is already gearing up for what looks like being a fantastic high season this year! High season in Lombok usually starts from mid-July and runs until mid-September, but many in the industry are predicting that this year Lombok will be well and truly busy by July.

Gili Trawangan businesses are already feeling the early stages of the rush, with some hotels reporting occupancies of 85+ % during the month of May! And judging by the number of new businesses on the islands and in Senggigi rushing to finish their building projects, everyone is getting ready for crowds of happy holiday-makers.

If you are dreaming of a holiday on a beautiful tropical island with plenty of sunshine and perfect white sand beaches, now is the time to start planning your holiday in paradise!

To find out more, pick up a copy of The Lombok Guide from the locations listed on http://www.thelombokguide.com/deadline_publishing.html or visit www.thelombokguide.com and discover the magic of Lombok for yourself… like thousands of others, you’ll be enchanted!

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NARMADA… Water of Life!

The people of Lombok need no introduction to Narmada drinking water; having been raised on the pure water of Lombok and the legends that surround it. Known locally as Narmada… Awet Muda, the Indonesian term loosely translates to mean “Fountain of Youth” and the people believe that drinking water from the Narmada springs helps to keep a person young and healthy.

Now a locally based company is making Lombok’s pure spring water famous internationally, by exporting Narmada water to Australia. Narmada Water Pty Ltd is owned by the Villa and Hut group, who also export quality Indonesian furniture through their international retail outlets. Co-founders Nigel and Jackie Ames are also well known locally for their successful Scallywags Resort properties on Gili Trawangan and Gili Air, and have had a strong link with Lombok for many years.

Which is why, one day when loading a shipping container with furniture and finding that he had empty space, Nigel threw in some boxes of Narmada water to stop the furniture from moving around and fill the spaces... and the rest is history! The water proved to be popular and more economical than water available in Australia, so the company set up Narmada Water Pty Ltd to import and sell the water to Australians.

The irony of exporting Indonesian water to Australians is not lost on Nigel. Up until the 1990’s, many Australian tourists were afraid to drink Indonesian water when on holidays in Bali. Now they clamour to buy the refreshing and pure water that flows from underground springs in the foothills of West Lombok!

The “Fountain of Youth” legends are probably based on old stories of one of the last Kings of Lombok, Anak Agung Ngurah Gede Karangasem, who created his summer palace in the cool hills north of the city of Cakranegara in Lombok in around 1805.

The abundant water and streams in the area allowed him to build Taman Narmada (or Narmada Park, sometimes called the Narmada Water Palace), with fountains, pools and artificial lakes. The gardens were both a cool retreat for the King to rest, as well as a place of worship. When the King became too old to make the traditional pilgrimage to the lake at the top of Mt Rinjani, he created a replica of this lake in his palace grounds and made his offerings there.

During the time of Dutch occupation of Lombok, King Anak Agung Lingsit, his son and heir to the throne, was exiled to Jakarta for some 50 years before returning to Cakranegara in the early throws of the independence movement.

Legend has it that the King was 70 years old with a long white beard when he returned, and people were amazed when he married for the first time and fathered 5 children. His amazing virility was attributed to the life giving waters of Narmada.

And analysis of the water is showing that there is plenty of evidence to support what the Lombok people know: Narmada water is very good for you!

Rated as one of the earth’s most pure streams, Narmada water flows from the crater lake on Mount Rinjani into the springs below. Mt Rinjani, Lombok’s towering volcano, is steeped in legend and is regarded as a holy site by many local Sasaks and the Balinese. Thus Narmada water is a gift from nature, originating in the pure volcanic lake and sourced near the age old temple high in the mountains.

A mineral analysis of the water shows that it contains 4.3 mg/L of Sodium, 8.5 mg/L of Calcium, 12.8 mg/L of Magnesium and 3.8 mg/L of Potassium.

Narmada water publicity says that the water has almost 50% less sodium (salt) content, and 30% more calcium content than Mount Franklin water (a leading brand of Australian water), as well as significantly more magnesium and potassium -- making it the number one choice for people looking for a natural and macrobiotic water that re-hydrates and refreshes like no other water on earth!

Not only is the water good for the people of Australia, but it’s now good for the people of Lombok in more ways than one: Narmada Water Pty Ltd, has pledged to donate 10% of the cost price of a carton of water to the Bio-sand Filter Project in Lombok.

This critical project is coordinated by the Rotary Club of Mataram, and helps to bring clean drinking water to remote villages in Lombok.

Many remote villages in Indonesia have problems because of the lack of access to clean, affordable drinking water. Sanitation and knowledge of hygiene is poor, there is a shortage of toilets, and sewage systems are almost non-existent. Because of overcrowding, where septic tank systems do exist they are often built too close to wells, resulting in sewage polluting the water tables. This lack of clean water leads to a variety of illnesses, including typhoid, cholera, skin diseases and diarrhoea. Some of these illnesses, particularly in babies and old people, often prove fatal.

The water filters supplied by Rotary are very simple in design, being made from reinforced concrete and have no moving parts. Water, typically from a well, is poured into the top of the filter and passes through a layer of special sand, through two layers of gravel and eventually out through a spout. Dirt and other materials that make well water cloudy are trapped in the sand.

The main work of the filter is carried out in the bio-layer that forms after one to three weeks of operation at the top of the layer of sand. In this bio-layer, the ‘good micro-organisms’ eat the ‘bad’ bacteria and pathogens. The filters have been extensively tested throughout the world. The overall conclusion is that they can eliminate over 95% of fecal coliform and e-coli and over 99% of protozoa and helminths (worms). The filters can produce approximately 80 litres of clean water per day -- more than enough for a family.

Since 2007, Rotary Mataram has installed over 1100 of these simple water filters into villages throughout Lombok, giving the local people free access to clean and safe drinking water, and helping to eliminate the diseases that traditionally arise from drinking contaminated well water.

Narmada Water Australia hopes to raise enough money to help The Rotary Club build and install a minimum of 100 additional Bio-sand Filters this year.

Recently, Narmada Water co-founder Jackie Ames presented Rotary Club of Mataram President, Howard Singleton, with the first cheque for Rp 8 500 000 from sales of Narmada water. The money will be used to provide at least 30 water filters to villages in Lombok… part of Rotary’s programme of “Water for Life”, thanks to the generosity and forward thinking of Narmada Water Pty Ltd!

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LOMBOK TOURISM BOARD UNDER INVESTIGATION

The Lombok Sumbawa Tourism Promotion Board (commonly known as “Lombok Sumbawa Promo” or LSP) is under investigation by the High Court of NTB District Attorney for discrepancies in its handling of the budget for the promotion of TIME (Tourism Indonesia Mart and Expo) 2009.

The national TIME 2009 tourism market was held in Lombok last year and was financed by the local government, using a government grant for Rp 5 billion.

Investigators found a number of discrepancies in the financial accounting of the LSP Board. Since last month, members of Lombok Sumbawa Promo and the Indonesian Tourism Promotion Board (BPPI) have been interviewed by the NTB Prosecutor.

On 4 June, members of the LSP made a statement to the press saying that the opinion of the State Audit Board (BPK) was not addressed.

“The Auditor recommended that the NTB Governor sanction the Treasurer and the Chief of the Financial Bureau,'” said LSP lawyer, Rofiq Ashari, representing Misbach Mulyadi (Chairman), Rosa Baiq Djapa (Secretary) and two other board members: Awanadhi Aswinabawa and Johan Olii.

Rofiq requested the termination of the investigation by the Attorney General for NTB, saying that the problems were administrative and not criminal. “There is no loss to the state in the implementation of TIME in 2009,'” he said.

The State Auditor found a number of anomalies in the LSP Board’s handling of the budget, including a residual balance of Rp 63.25 million charged to pay for tickets for international buyers, which was then paid back into state funds. Other discrepancies included a residual amount of expenditures totalling Rp 1, 695 million which was admitted to and refunded to public moneys on 3 May, 2010; as well as discrepancies in national and international marketing funds, and lack of evidence of how the funds were spent.

In addition, the Prosecutor is investigating LSP Secretary, Rosa Baiq Djapa (Stuart) over the cost of tent hire for TIME 2009, said to have cost over Rp 600 million.

Lombok Sumbawa Promo was dismantled earlier this year by the NTB Governor, after questions were raised regarding conflicts of interest with some of the board members who included the Vice Governor and members of parliament.

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A new nail salon with a difference has opened in Senggigi Plaza, on the southern side of the plaza on the road to the beach. Orchid Salon has the only nail art machine in Lombok -- a fantastic computer generated device that paints gorgeous and intricate designs onto your nails, transforming hands and feet into works of art! The salon has over 3000 designs available to choose from, with stunning geometric designs, intricate flowers and patterns, and fun art including “Hello Kitty” and cartoon characters (the kids will love these!)

Nails are prepared prior to painting, then sit back with a magazine and coffee while the computer controls the artwork… creating flawless designs in around half an hour! A full set of fingernail designs costs only Rp 80 000, while hands and feet can be transformed for just Rp 150 000. A professional manicure and pedicure, followed by nail art, is available for a very reasonable Rp 180 000! The salon also offers massage treatments, hair styling, make up and facials, plus an interesting range of clothing and accessories… with more to come soon! Now you can turn your hands and feet into lovely masterpieces for less than the price of a bottle of decent nail polish! Ph: 0819 1593 2899

Royal Spa has a great offer – for the entire month of June, the cozy massage and reflexology salons are giving one treatment away free for every two treatments you buy. Pay for two massages and get one free. Or treat yourself to a facial and a massage, and get a one hour reflexology session absolutely free! Free treatments must be of equal or lesser value than the treatments purchased and must be used during the month of June. Royal Spa’s normal prices are very good, so this offer is unbeatable value!

The Spa continues its “I love Mondays” discounts every Monday, when all treatments are available at 20% discount. The special “3 for 2” offer is available from 10am to 3pm, Tuesday to Sunday at the Senggigi spa (next to Santosa Villas and Resort) and Tuesday to Friday at Royal Spa in Mataram (on the road to Biomedika clinic). Ph: 693645 (Senggigi) or 6608777 (Mataram)

Café Lombi, which opened just over a month ago in the Senggigi Square, is getting good reviews around town, especially for their free delivery service. Local businesses are taking advantage of the service by ordering salads and sandwiches made on freshly baked white or whole wheat bread, toast or baguettes delivered to the door, free of charge! The café has Tuna fish, delicious Smoked Chicken Breast, Vegetarian, Club Sandwiches, 12-inch Baguette Sandwiches and brand new Hot Tomato-Mozzarello-Pesto Jaffles. Perfect for lunch on hot days and when you don’t have time to shop!

The café has also just added Bali Gold Export quality beans to the coffee selection, in addition to their already loved Allegro imported coffee beans. Specialty coffees include the popular Cappuccinos, Lattes, and Espressos, as well as my favourites: Ristretto (short and strong espresso) and Latte Macchiato (3-layer coffee with milk foam).
Enjoy your coffee with a homemade cake or croissant made fresh daily. Choices include chocolate brownies, vanilla cookies, coconut cookies and delicious mini meringues (the cookies and meringues are also available in take-home boxes and make nice gifts for friends).

The new hit on the dessert menu is “Lombi's Crocodile Tongue Bowl”, with healthy Aloe Vera chunks in its own juice with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, whipped cream and a homemade biscuit. At the moment, the Café is offering a special for The Lombok Guide readers with a free “Lombi’s Dream Meringue Ice Cream” with any purchase from their great coffee selection. Simply cut out the discount voucher on page 46 in the paper and take it with you next time you visit. Ph: 0818 365790

Local residents have probably noticed the big red boat sitting up on blocks outside Arafura International, the boat builders in Batu Bolong recently. Redline was in being fitted with a new engine and being brought up to speed for what looks like a busy high season on the Gilis. We’re happy to see Lombok’s newest fast boat is back in the water… better than ever with a new state-of-the-art whopping 1600 hp engine powered by Caterpillar, just in time to start fast boat transfers between Bali and Lombok again! Redline was built for comfort and safety, but now we can add speed to the mix… we can’t wait to try out her new moves in the water next week! www.redlineXpress.com

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ELECTRICITY PROTESTS CONTINUE

Dozens of people protested in front of the office of PT PLN in Mataram, on 3 June, protesting the recent power outages occurring in Mataram and surrounding areas.

Protesters brought with them two damaged personal computers, one broken monitor and a DVD damaged by electricity surges, which they placed at the entrance to the office. Participants also took action to boycott Mataram city residents attempting to pay for electricity at the office.

“The PLN is repeatedly promising that the blackouts will not happen again. But where is the evidence? The problem has continued, even worse,” said the Chairman of the Advocacy Division of Agricultural Workers Union and Federation of Fishermen (FS NTB) Indonesia, Edy Irwanto.

According to the protesters, in early May, the PLN made a promise to the people that there would be no more blackouts after 30 May. However, into June the blackouts are still ongoing.

Protesters complained that, in addition to disrupting lives and businesses, the power cuts were disrupting the studies of elementary school students (SD) and junior secondary school students (SMP) who are facing having to repeat grades for not being able to study for exams and complete assignments due to the blackouts.

The PLN has suffered much criticism this year, with accusations of corruption and shoddy dealings. Some have accused the company of playing loose with funds earmarked for the hire of extra generators to meet local demand; working in collusion with contractors hired to source the generators.

There are also accusations of the company pocketing money intended for the purchase of diesel to run the generators. Many point to the amount of money saved by cutting power to the city for just one hour.

Meanwhile, PLN Regional Commerce Manager, Anggoro Cipto Harto, said the blackouts could not be avoided due to the disruption of the local power plant.

Currently, the PLN is only capable of generating 72 megawatts (Mw) of power, while the demand for electricity in the island reaches 110 Mw. Therefore, he said, the company must perform rotating blackouts.

To overcome the problem, the PLN says it has rented additional generators totalling 45 Mw at a cost of Rp 500 billion.

The first 10Mw generator was expected to be in Lombok and installed by the end of May, hence the promises to cease blackouts at that time. However, the generator is still in transit from Singapore; apparently delayed due to customs import problems in Surabaya.

Once the generator arrives in Lombok, it still needs to be installed and integrated into the system. The PLN hopes this will be complete by the end of June.

The other machines totalling 45 Mw, and hired by four different contractors, are also supposed to be arriving later this month; but judging from past promises by the PLN, nothing is guaranteed. The PLN originally announced it would rent extra generators for the island back in April 2009.

However, judging from the public’s lack of tolerance for further blackouts or excuses from the PLN, we remain cautiously optimistic that changes will come this month.

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LOCAL SCENE

WHITE PARTY @ SUGAR

Everything was “all white on the night” as party-goers helped John and Iwan celebrate 13 sweet years at Sugar

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(Tongue-in-cheek answers to your personal building problems)

QUESTION: I was so impressed with the holiday island of Lombok that I decided to build my retirement villa here instead of Bali, where prices are higher than those in Europe. I am fairly satisfied with the result. The leaks in the swimming pool have been fixed, as have the leaks in the roof. The wiring is just about acceptable, after the third attempt, and we are currently dealing with the rising damp by treating the walls with various chemicals.
The villa was only completed a few months ago and cracks are appearing above the doors and windows, but we keep filling them as fast as they arrive. The bit that is driving me crazy is the windows! All of the opening windows are jamming. We’ve had the builders back, but they just plane down the frames till they open again. Two weeks later, they are sticking and catching just as badly as before. Gaps have started to appear at the top, big enough for insects to get through and I am having to leave the air conditioning on for longer than I would like. What do you suggest? 

MR FIXER: Wood is a living thing and if not properly sealed with paint or varnish, can expand or contract according to the amount of moisture in the air. This can vary wildly in the climate in this part of the world, especially during the humid rainy season. 

If your glazing has been fitted using a wooden beading, you might be able to remove the beading, and then remove the glass. I don’t know why they insist on fitting glass with beading from the outside. If beading were fitted on the inside, it would reduce the corrosion of the panel pins dramatically. Not only that, if I wanted a quiet way to burgle your house, I can’t think of a better way than to simply remove the beading and let the glass drop out.  

After removing the glass, apply a piping of clear silicone gel around the inner rebate and replace the glass and the beading. This will have the effect of strengthening the frame which will stop it from distorting under its own weight, as it will be held square due to the adhesive effect of the silicone. It is best to remove the window sash completely and undertake this process on a horizontal level surface. Gravity will help the glass settle into the frame and any excess silicone can be removed the next day with a sharp knife or Stanley blade.

Get the same workmen back who fitted the original frames. For added amusement, don’t tell them about the horizontal bit until at least one of them has nearly chopped his foot off whilst attempting to remove the glass in an upright position. That should teach them!

QUESTION: Just 3 years ago, I bought a plot of beach front land near Sire Beach in the north of Lombok. I was about to begin building my dream villa when a casual acquaintance offered me 10 times what I had paid for it. As this would represent a very large profit on my original investment, I am very tempted to sell. It would mean I could place the proceeds in a bank account and get 9% tax paid and live on the interest. I would never have to work again! The only problem I have is that I wouldn’t know what to do about all the begging letters. Your advice appreciated.

MR FIXER: A return of 1000% in 3 years is worth serious consideration. If you hang on for another 2 years it could double yet again! This would also give you another 2 years to keep sending the begging letters.

Got a question for Mr Fixer? He’s always got a quirky answer your personal building problems! Just email your problem to “Mr Fixer” at kitadesign@hotmail.com

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BUSINESSES TO PAY NEW ENVIRONMENT SERVICE FEE

The Jakarta Post reports that the West Lombok regency administration plans to charge the region’s hotels and businesses with a monthly Rp 500,000 (US $55) “environment service fee”.

Chairman of the Multi Party Institution (IMP), the fund’s management body, Lalu Syaiful Arifin, said the plan would copy the environment fee collection model imposed on 58,000 tap water customers in the region.

“The collection from tap water customers began in December last year with a fee of Rp 1,000 for each household,” said Syaiful, who is also head of the regency’s forestry office.

“We're tailoring the plan to hotels and businesses to help contribute in paying the environment service fee.”
He added it would be a sliding fee capped at Rp 500,000 a month. West Lombok is home to 18 star-rated hotels, 170 non-star-rated ones, 202 restaurants and two drinking water producers.

“The fee may be high but we will introduce it in stages,” he said, adding that it may be brought into effect this year.
Public water company PDAM Menang-Mataram collects some Rp 60 million a month from tap water customers.

he money is apparently used to restore springs and forests and improve the welfare of residents living in forested areas.

“With additional contribution from the hotel and business, we hope to further empower those living near forests,” Syaiful said.

The plan was warmly greeted by sales manager of Senggigi Beach Hotel, Ida Bagus Okayana, especially since the administration plans to revitalize the Senggigi resort area with part of the fund.

“As long as the plan has a positive impact on the people, I think everyone will happily support it,” Okayana told The Jakarta Post.

The fee collection is regulated by a 2007 regency bylaw, which requires contributions from residents to better the community.

“The core issue is water supply. The bylaw regulates how downstream community can contribute something to the upstream ones,” the head of West Lombok administration’s Public Relations division, Ispan Junaedi, said.
West Lombok is the first region in the country to implement such a bylaw.

Ispan said it took a long time before the bylaw was finally implemented following the issuance of a decree by the Regent in 2009, which regulates the composition of the IMP.

The IMP has representatives from the administration, environmental groups and the community.
Of the funds collected, 75 percent is reinvested in restoring water resources, reforestation and forest community empowerment. The remaining 25 percent goes to the IMP for its operational costs, including supervision, monitoring and evaluation.

Using funds generated by the fees, forest communities in Sesaot and Lebah Suren forests, which have been the tap water company’s main water resources, have started replanting seedlings in some of the critical fields in the area. The forest is part of the water catchment area for West and Central Lombok, as well as Mataram regions.
Separately, M Ridha Hakim of the World Wildlife Fund Nusa Tenggara said his office, together with the IMP, has supervised 30 community groups in Sesaot in becoming involved in reforestation and community economic empowerment programs.

“The program creates joint responsibility between communities,” he said.

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PROPERTY LAWS CONTINUE TO DISAPPOINT

Both the New York Times and Jakarta Globe have stories announcing that the hopes of real estate developers for a significant liberalisation of rules for foreign property ownership in Indonesia have been dashed by the failure of the government to deliver a promised massive revamp of the rules.

Bagus Adikusumo of Colliers International Indonesia said, “We all thought they were ready to go for it. But then it didn’t happen.”

Rules specifically prohibiting foreign ownership of freehold title and constitutional limits in support of those rules remain very much in place.

As a result, foreigners wishing to buy property in Bali and the rest of Indonesia must resort to proxy and nominee legal constructs that are, strictly speaking, in direct contravention of the laws of the Republic.

Complicating matters further, the irrevocable powers of attorney and loan agreements used by foreigners to secure their precarious claim on Indonesian property also stand on shaky legal footing.

There is apparently a large legal tug-of-war being waged in Jakarta between property developers eager to tap into a huge potential market of foreign property purchasers and nationalists intent on keeping the status quo. Those seeking change may have to content themselves with a revision of the rules allowing “automatic” extensions to the current maximum 25-year lease period. And, even if such extensions are approved, they face the eventual risk of being rejected by Indonesia’s Constitutional Court, repeating an earlier attempt to grant lease extensions for foreigners which was rejected by the Court in 2007.

Describing the confusion over efforts to change rules for foreign property ownership, one local observer of the real estate scene in Bali said, “It's déjà vu all over again.”

At an international property industry gathering in Bali at the end of May, Indonesia was presented as an emerging market with great potential and growing demand for development in the real, residential and commercial property sectors.

“Indonesia is doing what it can to open its real estate market to foreign ownership,” Vice President Boediono said to delegates from more than 60 countries at the opening of the 61 world congress of the International Real Estate Federation (Fiabci). “However, it will be an uphill battle,” he added.

The government is currently drafting a regulation that will partially open the market to foreign investment in certain types of real estate, such as luxury apartments and high-value properties.

Although foreign ownership of property is impossible under Indonesian law, non-nationals can now rent real estate for 25 years and may extend leases two subsequent times, for 20-and 25- year periods respectively.

Summarising the debate that has been continuing in Jakarta over foreign ownership laws, Adikusumo said, “I think they backed off first for nationalistic reasons, then secondly, because of fears that opening up the market to foreigners would favor luxury house construction at the expense of low-cost mass housing. They will also have to make major changes in the law, even perhaps the Constitution, which would take quite a while to push through Parliament.”

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POISONING PARADISE!

The controversy of uncontrolled illegal gold mining in Sekotong continues to rage. Local society is split between those who are basking in new found wealth and those who are alarmed at the escalating damage being done to the pristine environment of Lombok’s southwest coast.

Illegal mining of gold in large areas around Sekotong has been carried out for at least the past two years now and, despite local government attempts to stop the villagers from mining, the problem has escalated dramatically over the past year.

Thousands of people have flooded into the area and set up make-shift camps, nearly every small village, starting from just past Lembar Harbour to all along the south coast, sports rolling machines for processing gold-bearing rock, and the signs of damage on the surrounding hills is evident.

What is not evident is the environmental damage being committed by heavy metal poisoning of the area; particularly mercury poisoning. Unsubstantiated reports from the area say that fish are already dying in the clear turquoise waters off the coast. If this is true, the problem has implications for the entire fishing industry in Lombok, and in Bali, as fish do not always stay in one place.

Initially, gold was being mined in the area only by local villagers, with the men using picks and shovels to dig rock from the hillsides. Chain gangs of local women could be seen carrying baskets of rock on their heads down to the villages, where more men waited to crush the rock with hammers, hoping to find the precious gold.

As more gold was discovered and local communities suddenly became rich beyond their dreams, outsiders flocked to the area. Some were from other parts of Lombok, but many came from established mines in nearby Sumbawa and Kalimantan when they heard about the gold. Suddenly, the gold rush was on and local authorities could do little to contain the numbers of people pouring into the mining camps.

With the experienced miners came more sophisticated techniques for extracting the gold. It is rumoured that gold merchants from Mataram and Cakra financed the purchase of equipment and chemicals to make the extraction easier.

Rollers and grinding machines appeared in all the small villages and water was diverted from streams and wells to help flush the crushed rock. In this process, gold-bearing rocks are crushed using the grinding machine, down to the form of extracts of around 0.5 mm. The crushed rock is then purified using water, leaving the gold particles behind. This purification process utilizes mercury to act as a filter which traps the gold.

The toxic waste is often disposed of recklessly, even though mercury is a poisonous chemical which poses a significant danger to human health and the environment. Local reports say that for each load, around one Krating Daeng bottle (150ml) of mercury is used.

When we have visited these villages in the past, contaminated water lays in pools around the grinding machines, which are often located within the village compound, steps away from homes. The children play nearby, chickens scratch in the dirt and the drainage ditches alongside the road are filled with dirty brown water, covered with an evil frothy scum. Crops grow nearby and it doesn’t take much imagination to work out how much of this poison these local people are ingesting.

Workers we have spoken to are oblivious to the risks. Nor do they care, when the risks to their own health and that of their children are explained to them; most of these people were originally subsistence farmers and fisherman, struggling to survive on incomes of around $1 per day. Now suddenly they have wealth and, if they die accumulating it, many shrug it off, saying “Insya’Allah”… “if Allah wills it”. Young men boast about their new motorbikes, electricity cables run to houses that never had electricity and now sport new televisions; prosperity is everywhere!

At least 50 people have already died in landslides and tunnel collapses in the area, but locals say the figure is much higher. The deaths are not reported to the authorities for fear that this will give them more incentive to close the mines.

Local Sekotong district chief, Lalu Guntur Gagarin, said illegal gold-mining occurred in at least 18 locations in the district – Buwun Mas, Kerato and Pelangan villages.

“The total area of open pit mines has reached 1,200 hectares, some of which are located in forest conservation areas, forest concessions and private property,” he said.

Based on data from the Sekotong district office, at least 6,000 people are involved in illegal mining, operating around 3,500 processing plants. Sekotong residents say they refuse to stop illegal mining because the practice is their only source of income.

“The mines are the only means for us to escape poverty,” said local miner, Lalu Sukarno, from Selindung, Pelangan village. He said the Selindung mining area housed around 5,000 people, including women and children, earning a living from gold.

He said earnings from mining was better than a farm hand earning a maximum of Rp 35,000 (US$3.50) a day. “Here, everyone can take home Rp 2 million a day. Some even get 5 kilograms of gold in three days. Just multiply that with the current price of gold of Rp 300,000 per gram,” he said.

It is said that every sack of gold-bearing rock, each weighing 20 kilograms, contains a minimum of 0.5 grams of gold. Such profit comes within a day, from mining to the rock processing. One miner even bragged about the 3 kilograms of pure gold he had obtained in a month, worth billions of rupiah, yet he only spent around Rp 50 million to begin with.

When the local government announced in December 2009 that it was closing down the illegal mining operations, they had no idea of how large the problem had really become; nor how much resistance they would meet from locals flushed with gold fever.

Police and security officers faced an angry population, determined to mine in what they regard to be their local community lands. According to some reports, the police were driven out of the area and are afraid to go back. Others speak of corruption and bribes being paid to corrupt police and security personnel to turn a blind eye to the mining.

Although the official government line is that mining has stopped and only small covert operations are still taking place, the fact is that illegal mining on both the southwest and south coasts of Lombok has grown enormously this year and the operations are being carried out in broad daylight, plainly visible to anyone who visits the area.
Meanwhile, West Lombok Regent Zaini Arony, has said that Sekotong is a region suitable for both tourism and mining. To help develop the region, the West Lombok regional administration wants to organise the activities of the miners and train them in mining techniques and the correct handling of equipment, to minimise environmental damage and loss of life.

“The government is not intending to shut off the Sekotong people’s source of income. Instead, the government aims to organise the mining effort to pay more attention to the environment and the safety of their work,” said Regent Zaini, as quoted by Suara NTB.

This would seem to be the only sensible solution. However, the problem is getting bigger by the week while the government drags its feet.  

Although Lombok is closed for the exploitation of “Type B” mining, which includes gold, it seems likely that the regional Governmental of West Lombok will allow re-zoning in the Sekotong area (which is currently zoned for special tourism development), to allow the area to be re-opened for gold mining.

It has been proposed that applicable land in the Sekotong area will be divided into two zones, with one zone allowing for community mining and another zone permitted for mining under the management of professional mining companies using approved equipment and technology.

The Vice Regent of West Lombok told journalists at a press conference at the Governor’s office on Tuesday, 7 April this year, that an area of around 9000 hectares will be allocated for community mining and another 7000 hectares allocated for professional mining operations.

Under regional NTB planning laws, which encompass Lombok and Sumbawa, Lombok is excluded from mining operations, with permits only being issued on the neighbouring island of Sumbawa. Under the local laws, Lombok is officially slated for tourism development only.

PT Newmont Nusa Tenggara, which operates a large gold and copper mine at Batu Hijau in West Sumbawa, originally held the permits for mining in the area of Selodong. Newmont surveyed the Sekotong area from 1986 to 2004 but, after limited drilling, declared Sekotong as having low potential and the land was returned to the NTB administration.

However, according to rumours, Newmont gave back the mining rights because at that time the NTB provincial administration wanted to preserve Lombok as a tourism destination, free from large-scale mining.
Later on, PT Newmont’s vacant spot was taken over by PT Indotan, which itself had been doing exploitation activities in the area, after it obtained mining rights from the local administration. When, in 2006, the NTB provincial administration issued its Local Regulation on Territorial Layout Plan No 11/2006 declaring Lombok closed to mining, PT Indotan ceased its exploitation activities.

However, some insiders are saying that the scenario now being played out by the local government is a sham and that mining is set to go ahead in Sekotong.

According to the local government, the NTB administration is still seeking information before making a decision on whether to open the island to mining again.

Secretary of Commission III of the field of infrastructure and the environment in the House of Representatives NTB, Johan Rosihan, rejected the legalisation of class B mining in Lombok, saying to local press, “Nationally, the island of Lombok is only a small island and doesn’t have mining capacity. Even if the law is revised, we will not confirm the existence of mines in Lombok.”

Yet, reading the public website of mining company, Southern Arc Minerals Inc, it would appear that the public and even Lombok MP’s are not being informed of the truth.

On 24 December, 2009, Southern Arc announced that it had finalised its acquisition of certain rights from Indotan Inc, including the right to the name Indotan Inc. Indotan assigned its rights to the Indotan name, granted Southern Arc power and control over all matters related to the Singapore companies, and has agreed to transfer the shares in the Singapore companies to Southern Arc once the required permits have been granted to the Singapore companies pursuant to the mining laws of Indonesia. 

Extracts from the Southern Arc Minerals website state: “The Southern Arc Minerals Inc. is an Indonesia-based Canadian mineral exploration company with an aggressive exploration, acquisition and growth strategy.  The company's well-positioned and outstanding portfolio includes six active, advanced projects involving epithermal gold and high-potential gold-copper porphyry prospects on Java, Lombok and Sumbawa islands… Our current key exploration project is the West Lombok project, a complex of several gold-rich copper porphyries and epithermal gold vein prospects located within Southern Arc's West Lombok property on Lombok Island.”

Southern Arc reports that it holds licenses for 18,483 ha (45,671 acres) of land in West Lombok and was carrying out surveying in Selodong until September 2008 – two years after Lombok was closed to mining operations.

Southern Arc also carried out extensive exploration activities on Pelangan through 2006 and into 2007, including scout drilling, surface mapping and ground CSAMT surveying. Gawa Bongor in the Pelangan area that was located in March 2008 and phase 2 drilling commenced on selected vein targets in late August 2008. 

The company also holds licences in Mencanggah District. Up to the end of August 2008, five major vein targets, including Tebu Serai, Bising, Telekut, Talat Talat and Gunayang were sampled. Samples were collected in August 2009, mainly from the southern extension of Tibu Serai.

In addition, Southern Arc claims to hold licenses for 22,360 ha (55,251 acres) of land in southeast Lombok, including an extensive epithermal vein system in Awang and a mineralized system near Kuta on Lombok’s south coast.

Reports and updates on the site state: “The revision of the contentious land utilization regulation has been through all the relevant central government's obligatory regulatory steps as the new provincial spatial plan, or the RAPERDA No.3/2010. The RAPERDA was voted upon by the provincial legislature and passed. It now only awaits its proclamation into law by the Governor of West Nusa Tenggara Province. Upon this enactment of the RAPERDA, the West Lombok Project will lie within areas zoned for mining activities. 

With respect to processing the IUP, the Company has been in intensive negotiations with the West Lombok Regent (the issuing authority) since February to ensure that the issuing of the relevant IUP is not hindered in any manner.”

On 8 March, 2010, the company announced: “PERDA ENDORSED BY MINISTER OF HOME AFFAIRS
Vancouver, B.C.:  Southern Arc Minerals Inc. ("Southern Arc" or the "Company") (TSX Venture: SA) is pleased to report that the Minister of Home Affairs in Jakarta has endorsed the new provincial land utilization regulation (“the Perda”) for West Nusa Tenggara (NTB). The final step in the regulatory process will be for the Perda to be enacted by the Provincial Governor.”

If these and other reports by Southern Arc are true, it would seem that mining in Sekotong is a foregone conclusion.

By legalising the mining operations, the government estimates that around 25% of the local community, or 125 000 local residents, will be involved in the mining of gold, with a viable time-span of around 30 years.
The mining licenses will not only give employment opportunities to people in the poor farming areas, but will also boost the West Lombok economy. We at The Lombok Guide will continue to monitor and report on this important situation as it develops.

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