By: Nico Haryono
The newborn rays of the sun touch the infertile hills of the village of Wonocolo, Bojonegoro in East Java. A pair of sturdy legs move, the toes step and sink into the mud. The muscled hands tightly clutch a lath beam bundled to a strand of steel wire. Inspired screaming sounds several times, and the six men move together to pull the steel wire. From the end of wire placed on the well, the cylinder of 7 metres moves then Saparlan holds the end of a nozel-cylinder and throws the substance up to the drums.
The thick brown liquid they call lantung is caught in a bigger receiving station which is burried in the ground. The gallons of lantung or crude oil are then cooked during 4 to 5 hours to make solar (diesel). The steam of the cooking process is chilled so it transforms into pure solar and is poured into containers, ready to sell to their subscribed collector. The men manage to collect 4 drums of diesel a day, priced at about 300.000 rupiah per drum. The profit is divided between the 10 to 15 members of the group.
There are dozens of groups that mine this oil well that has been in existence for almost a hundred years. The wells are an inheritance of Dutch colonial times. Since the wells were founded in 1929, they became the source of income for people in Wonocolo and its surroundings. They refine the crude oil traditionally, by using man’s energy to pull hundreds of steel wires from the soil.
Some groups use former diesel machines as a subtitution for man’s energy now. In the midst of transformation, these infertile hills continue to be their source of hope. Although these marginal men lead a backbreaking existence and their efforts pay little, they keep holding on faithfully.
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