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Prosperity denied

Mining is booming in East Nusa Tenggara, but where is the wealth going?

Nicola Colbran

     Working hard at the PT Sumber Jaya Asia manganese mine
     Nicola Colbran

East Nusa Tenggara, Indonesia’s south easternmost province, is famous for its unique flora and fauna and has one of the most diverse marine environments in the world. Yet this natural beauty has brought little wealth to the peoples of the province and it remains mostly under-developed. East Nusa Tenggara has one of Indonesia’s highest rates of poverty and is prone to drought. It has poor infrastructure and its people suffer from malnutrition and hunger, low levels of schooling and inadequate access to health care. Unemployment is high and the challenge for government is how to tackle these problems and develop a prosperous future for the peoples of the province.

One quick fix often put forward by officials and business interests is revenue from mining. East Nusa Tenggara has vast reserves of manganese, gold and marble and mining activities have increased exponentially in recent years. Each month district heads grant more mining licences but it is impossible to know exactly how many have been issued. In early October 2009, the Kupang Post reported that the district heads of Timor Tengah Selatan, Timor Tengah Utara and Belu had issued 133 mining exploration permits without the knowledge of the provincial governor. Further, the district government of Belu helped establish an association of

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