Sulawesi: Gold Rush means Kabaena’s forest is now hosting millions who plunder

Since gold was discovered by local people in early September, Kabaena
— an island of lush, virgin forests — has become an economic magnet,
drawing hundreds of thousands of people hoping to strike it rich.
Farms and fields lie abandoned, and towns, villages and streets in
Southeast Sulawesi Province have been unusually quiet ever since the
discovery of vast gold deposits on Kabaena Island in Bombana district,
230 kilometers from the provincial capital of Kendari.

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People from all over this predominantly rural province of some 2
million people, as well as from other provinces, have been abandoning
the drudgery of their usual jobs and flocking to the area in a hectic,
disorganized gold rush. Southeast Sulawesi’s governor, Nur Alam, said
there gold in the area worth an estimated Rp 277 trillion ($19.5
billion). He expressed confidence that “the people of Southeast
Sulawesi are set to enjoy an era of prosperity if our natural
treasures are well managed.”

Indeed, the province should be one of  Indonesia’s richest regions, given its extensive nickel, asphalt and timber resources. Its nickel deposits alone are estimated at 97.4 billion tons, worth some Rp 23 trillion, while its 3.8 billion tons of asphalt deposits are believed to be worth Rp 1.841 trillion. Besides
these riches, Southeast Sulawesi also boasts bountiful agricultural,
fishing and forestry resources. “We really have the potential to be
among the most prosperous people in the world,” the governor asserted.
The governor said that local autonomy legislation limited his power
over district heads and made it difficult for him to curb further
forest destruction. Many district heads in Indonesia, particularly in
traditionally impoverished areas, will do just about anything to
increase local revenues, often without regard for environmental

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Comments (2)

Jack SullivanMarch 20th, 2009 at 7:32 am

Is this gold rush for real ?? I am married to an Indonesian woman who wants to send her nephew to mine for gold in Sulawesi. Is it a good idea? Please let me know. Thx, Jack

macFebruary 6th, 2010 at 7:15 pm

how is this gold rush going ? is everyone finding gold, or just a few lucky ones, is there a high cost to the extraction process?

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