Yogyakarta. Six activists camped outside the Yogyakarta provincial legislature marked the third day of their hunger strike on Friday in protest against the detention of a farmer arrested for opposing an iron mine in the province.
Agung, the strike coordinator, said the Kulon Progo mine, operated jointly by Australia’s Indo Mines and local outfit Jogja Magasa Mining, would deprive farmers in four subdistricts of vast swaths of farmland.
“The mine will reduce the area of rice paddies by 72 percent from the current 4,005 hectares,” he said.
“Hundreds or even thousands of farm workers will be rendered jobless.”
More than 21,000 small landholders stood to lose their land if the government allowed the mining operation to expand, he said.
He also called for the immediate release of Tukijo, a farmer who was reportedly kidnapped by police while working in his fields in May and since sentenced to three years in prison for disorderly conduct following his vocal opposition to the mine.
“This hunger strike is a real action to support Tukijo and the Kulonprogo people in rejecting the mine,” Agung said. The protesters, a mix of students and farmers, began their strike on Wednesday and plan to continue “without a deadline,” Agung added.
He said that in the three days that the activists had been camped outside the legislature, no councilors had come out to meet them. “We don’t care about that, we’ll continue with the strike until the end,” he said.
Sumanto, another of the protesters and secretary of the Kulon Progo Coastal Farmers Association (PPLP), said that the Kulon Progo district head, Hasto Wardoyo, had promised to hold talks with the protesters but had failed to appear.
Residents of Kulon Progo have protested against the mining operation since it was first proposed in 2006. An iron concentration of 40-80 percent along Kulon Progo’s beaches makes it the second-largest iron reserve in the world after Mexico.
In 2008, the central government brokered the deal for the concession, which will supply 600,000 tons of iron to state-owned Krakatau Steel in its first year of operation. Mining started this year. Budi Wibowo, the district secretary, previously said that there was “huge money” to be made from the mine.
“Apart from iron sand, the land also contains titanium, vanadium, coal, gold, manganese and lime, which will be available after the iron sand is extracted,” he said. “There is 100 years’ worth of precious mineral reserves in Kulon Progo.”
Tukijo, who led the local opposition to what he saw as an illegal appropriation of farmers’ lands, was arrested on charges of defamation, an allegation made by the mining company, and convicted in early 2010. He was sentenced to six months’ probation.
His family says he had been arrested on several occasions since then, until the last incident in May.