Bogor. Despite its natural wealth, there is no sign of extravagance in Rumpin, Bogor, where miners dig up limestone and sand that feed construction in the neighboring metropolis of Jakarta.
Instead, since the mining operation started in 2001, residents have had to endure suffocating dust brought on by the trucks that ply the rundown roads.
In the wet season, rain brings heavy mud, making the roads nearly impossible to navigate.
Residents say they have had enough, and many have acted on their frustration. During the last two years there have been at least 10 clashes between supporters of the mine and those who oppose it, and heated arguments occur almost daily.
The latest incident came this week when locals blockaded the road, erecting a portal that prevented anything other than small vehicles from passing through.
That prompted anger from the some 1,500 truckers and 1,200 workers who depend on the mine to make a living. Shortly after the portal went up, some of them tore it down.
“There are thousands of drivers whose livelihood depends on the mine, so of course we mind,” said Mumuh Munajat, a spokesman for a transportation company that operates in the area. “We are asking the government to fix the roads so other people won’t be disturbed.”
According to data from the Rumpin subdistrict, only 49.7 percent of its 152 kilometers of roads are in proper condition. Damage comes from heavy trucks weighed down by large loads of sand and rocks.
Didik Subiyanto, general manager of Lotus, a limestone mining company, said it was up to the government to fix the roads and ease the tensions.
“We are businessmen, not road contractors,” he said. “We can help with the materials, but the government should provide the heavy equipment and manpower.”
But the Bogor government has refused, calling it a futile effort that would only waste of billions of rupiah.
Asep Mulyana, head of operations at the Bogor Traffic and Transportation Agency (DLLAJ), said the government had already tried fixing the roads, but after a few months they were just as damaged as before.
“The last time was in 2011,” Asep said. “We even built the roads out of concrete for about 20 kilometers … but they only lasted seven months and we spent Rp 1.2 billion.”
The problem, he said, was that trucks carried more than they should.
“The roads in Rumpin are district-level roads with a maximum capacity of 32 tons,” Asep said. “The [trucks] that drive on them are more than 40 tons [each] and they pass every 15 minutes or so.”
The damaged roads have affected locals in several ways.
Ratna, 30, a food stall vendor, said she was constantly sweeping and mopping her floors because of the dust stirred up by the passing trucks. For years she has had to do this about once an hour, she said. “Otherwise the dust will pile up and no one will shop here,” she said.
In Sukamulya village, the rundown roads have had larger implications, said Suganda, the village chief. With potholes and mud driving buses and public minivans away, the price of goods has increased, contributing to poverty in the area.
Now around 30,000 families in Rumpin are enrolled in the government rice distribution program known as raskin, Suganda said.
According to 52 year-old Samir, another local, the miners needed to show more responsibility to the community. “We have an abundant natural resource [in Rumpin], but all the locals get is dust and mud,” he said.
Aljon, an official with the Bogor Energy and Mineral Resources Agency (ESDM), said that since income produced by the mine did not match what the district was able invest in infrastructure, Jakarta should step in to address the problem.
“The majority of the rocks go to Jakarta for roads and other construction projects there,” Aljon said.
Under the current profit-sharing scheme, Bogor gets Rp 2,200 for every ton of rock the mine produces. Last year there were 9.3 million tons, up from 7.2 million tons in 2009.
“That [amount of money] is small compared to what we need to fix the roads,” Aljon said, although he added that the government was not planning to shut down the operation. “There are many whose livelihood depends on the mines,” he said.
Asep said the only thing his office could do was erect more portals to stop overweight trucks from damaging the roads. Still, he said, resistance from the miners could be overwhelming.
“We had two of our previous portals collapse,” he said. “One was deliberately hit by a truck and the other was vandalized by the truckers.”
But Asep said his office wasn’t backing down, and a new, 2.9-meter-high portal has recently been erected.
“Hopefully this one doesn’t get destroyed too,” he said.