Village leaders attend a meeting with officials of Ruteng Diocese and the Franciscan Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation (JPIC) commission on Sept. 1 to form an anti-mining group. (Photo supplied)
Ruteng Diocese in cooperation with Franciscans on Indonesia's Flores Island have taken the lead in organizing indigenous communities to fight against manganese mining companies which have restarted operations after a two-year hiatus.
On Sept. 1, they formed the "Anti-Mining Manggarai Indigenous People" group led by the heads of 11 villages affected by mining activities.
Father Marthen Jenarut, director of the diocese's Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation (JPIC) commission said with the group, they want to spur indigenous people into fighting for their rights that would include opposing environmentally destructive mining.
"The church has a principle that ecological problems are a humanitarian problem," he told ucanews.com.
Valens Dulmin, executive secretary of the Franciscans' JPIC commission said the government had rejected their appeals not to grant mining permits on small islands, such as Flores.
"Our only hope of fighting this is through strengthening our resolve and presenting a united front," Dulmin said.
He said both commissions will lead indigenous people in opposing the mining companies, especially when it comes to matters related to legal affairs.
Heribertus Fendi, a villager who lives next to one mining site in Timbang, in Cibal Sub-district said the mining firm PT Global Commodity Asia had returned to the island and resumed operations.
"They had stopped operating in 2015, because of resistance from local people. Now the fight looks like restarting," he said.
He said mining waste polluted fresh water sources nearby. "The water turned black and could no longer be consumed," he said.
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