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Dirty Business

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I do not deserve the whole credit.

It was late in the afternoon when a friend came to my house and asked me to join him to attend a photo exhibit opening, in order to promote our Indonesian Photojournalist Association to some people. That’s how I later on got Singapore Ambassador to Indonesia, Ashok Mirpuri to be the first person I hand out my new name card to. I really hope it’s a good sign, that is IF he decided not to throw it away from his pocket. Nice guy though.

But in the same time that afternoon, I was pushing myself to a deadline of sending photo essay about the illegal tin mining in Bangka, Sumatera, to Jakarta Globe’s photo editor, Jurnasyanto Sukarno. The pix were fresh from the camera, the timing was perfect since it’s environment issue and even though Earth Day is still a month away, it should still fit for the day where Earth Hour took place on March 26.

And rushing myself that afternoon, to get all the pix edited, resized and attached to the email, I was also in a hurry to look up some articles on the web, about the illegal tin mines.

This is the result :

It’s a matter of supply and demand. Having the price of tin rose remarkably in 2010, with the main factor behind the supply side shortfall. China, as the largest producer, has been shutting down illegal tin mining operation which has caused severe supply issue. While Indonesia itself has been cracking down on illegal mining operation since 2006, the demand for tin that rose over the year, does not slowing down the workers at the illegal mine sites in Bangka area, Sumatera.
Tin mining is no doubt been ripping out Bangka.The coconut palms on the tropical beaches in the area, and a number of orange fields had been open up to reveal a landscape so devastated by mining that it bears an eerie resemblance to the surface of the moon. Deep craters as big as football fields pockmark the land. Smaller craters filled with turquoise water glitter deceptively in the tropical sun.
Men and women, dug out their lands and in the end, keep them stranded and forgotten. Leaving trails of devastation on earth for the matters of supply and demand.”

Nicely written, unfortunately.. I only rewrote most of it. My lines would be just two or three out of the whole text.

Until the day before it should be published, got a message asking, “Did you copy the text from New York Times?”

Shit! The answer would be, NO. – meaning, “No, I didn’t copy it from NY Times, but most likely, I must have copied it from a website that copied the article from NY Times” – stupid me, eh?

What so stupid about it was, I WAS THERE, I’VE INTERVIEWED THE PEOPLE THERE (not just hit and run), I HAVE ALL THE FACTS AND DATA about the destruction, how much they earn from doing such destruction over the years, and so on. BUT I DIDN’T WRITE THEM DOWN IN MY OWN WORDS. When I should have.

The copy editor then gave me a call, confirming if I did copy it from NYT. I can only apologize for being so dumb (and lazy). Her response was, “Just be careful next time”. So the next conversation was me giving her brief about the things I should’ve wrote myself. She was very nice and seems to understand every word I tried to say. The result was also very nice. I love it. The photo selections were the ones I really like, and of course, it is nicely written as well. Unfortunately.. I didn’t do it myself.

Dirty Business

Years of unrestrained tin excavation has made much of Bangka Island, east of Sumatra, a wasteland.
Once home to lush orange orchards, tracts of the land are now riddled with craters.

Illegal miners, many laid off by companies that packed up and left after metal reserves dwindled, carve out a meager living by sifting for tin with shovels and buckets.

But it’s a difficult trade, with workers coming away with only specks of tin. If lucky, they can collect enough to sell for Rp 110,000 ($12) a kilo.

Despite the dangers and hardships, poor villagers continue to hunt for that little ounce of treasure just to get through the day.

Photo and Text JG/Eka Nickmatulhuda

Maybe I should signed a pledge for not just copy paste stuffs I found in the internet. How can I scream about copyrights, when I violate it myself? shame.. 😦

**The story published in Jakarta Globe newspaper on March 26, 2011 – Eyewitness section.

Special thanks to : Reza, Dian, Quinsha, Ryan, Wan, Jurnas, and Christine (I think thats the copy editor’s name.. her voice is too soft – compares to mine, of course ;p )

See more images in The Landscape of Destruction on my main webpage.

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Written by nickmatulhuda

March 30, 2011 at 11:48 pm

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