"Today, we sealed 10 pits of the illegal mining site with a police line, and we are taking stern action against the illegal miners if they return to resume their unlawful activities," Head of the Banten Provincial Police's Operational Bureau Sen. Coms. Aminudin Roemtaat stated.
Roemtaat confirmed that members of Banten's anti-illegal gold mining task force, comprising military and police personnel as well as representatives of several related agencies in the province, closed the illegal mining pits.
Members of the task force had conducted land patrols from Thursday to Friday by visiting the blocks of Cimari, Cirotan, Cidandak, Gunung Leutik, Muara Tilu, Bunung Masigit, Pasir Wiru, Sopal, Cigadang, Ciburuluk, Ciawitali, Cikatumburi, Pasir Ipis, Ciburiling, Cikopo, and Cimadur, Roemtaat revealed.
Some 302 personnel were deployed to conduct land patrols. They were segregated into two groups to track 16 pits where illegal mining activities were conducted in the Citorek area of Cibeber Sub-district, Lebak District.
Roemtaat pointed out that some of the sealed pits were found in the area of Citorek track, adding that the total number of illegal pits may reach "hundreds" and are located in difficult areas.
In the meantime, Banten Police spokesman Sen. Coms. Edy Sumardi revealed that the anti-illegal gold mining task force had continued to probe those allegedly involved in these environmental crime-related offences.
However, no arrests had yet been made since police investigators are handling the case. They have questioned 12 witnesses, he remarked.
Illegal mining activities have oftentimes been blamed to contribute to environmental damage that result in landslides and flash floods in various parts of Indonesia.
In this context, President Joko Widodo (Jokowi) had drawn attention to the criticality of curbing illegal gold mining activities to help prevent the recurrence of natural disasters in future.
During his visit to Banjar Irigasi Village in Lebak Gedong Sub-district, Lebak District, Banten Province, on January 7, 2020, President Jokowi had instructed the local authority to put a halt to illegal gold mining.
He contended that illegal mining activities had fueled deforestation in Banten Province and must be thwarted to prevent a relapse of flash floods in future.
"In Lebak District, Banten, we can see forest encroachment for illegal mining. I have ordered the governor and district head to stop this," Jokowi remarked in Banjar Irigasi Village, Lebak Gedong Sub-district, in Banten on Jan 7.
Flash floods that hit Lebak District on Wednesday (Jan 1) claimed 10 lives and damaged 19 schools in six districts in addition to wrecking 1,410 houses.
Related news: Banten collaborates closely with police to curb illegal gold mining
EDITED BY INE