The sighting of various types of birds was once a common sight for residents in Sagea Village. But now that has changed, with the presence of the mining industry.

The sighting of various types of birds was once a common sight for residents in Sagea Village. Now, however, this has changed, with the presence of the mining industry.

Observing various types of birds in flight and hearing their tweets, was once a daily occurrence for the residents of Sagea Village. However, the serene atmosphere has now changed, with the presence of the nickel mining industry in the area.

The village, which is situated in North Weda District, Central Halmahera, North Maluku, the area lies within the Key Biodiversity Area (KBA) corridor – a location that contributes significantly to the sustainability of global biodiversity. The village spans 6,298 hectares and is also located within the Wallacea line, resulting in relatively high biodiversity, encompassing both flora and fauna.

Boki Maruru Cave is located approximately 3 km from the village, a natural cave which is quite famous in the area and accessible by road or by following the Sageyen River.

According to residents of Sagea Village, previously various types of birds, especially hooked beaks (Psittaculidae), lived in this beautiful area. Its natural beauty and biodiversity make it a tourist area.

Life feels beautiful and comfortable for local residents and tourists who visit Sagea and Boki Moruru Cave.

Even in 2020 the local government proposed to make it a Karst Natural Landscape (KBAK) and Geoheritage, or National Geopark. These efforts are important to protect the geological heritage and ecosystem that lives in the area.

However, since a mining company was attracted to the natural wealth, including nickel deposits in the land buried in the land of Sagea Village, along with the karst formations and limestone rocks, everything began to change.

Mining land clearing activities commenced in 2010 when PT First Pacific Mining (FPM) and PT Zhong Hai Rare Metal Mining Indonesia were granted mining permits from the regent of Central Halmahera, and respectively, with permits extending until 2014 and 2030

Not only nickel, karst with the limestone comprising it, is also beginning to attract the attention of entrepreneurs, including PT Gamping Mining Indonesia which is exploring Sagea starting in 2019. According to data collected by the #SaveSagea community from the Minerba One Map Indonesia (MOMI) of the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources (ESDM) in 2023, Central Halmahera Regency, with an area of 226,402 hectares, burdened with 19 mining business permits (IUP); 15 of them are production operations, one is exploration, the other two are reserves. The total concession area reaches 46,129.1 ha.

#SaveSagea infographic

The large number of mining businesses operating in Halmahera has prompted the government to establish a nickel industrial area managed by PT Indonesia Weda Bay Industrial Park (IWIP) in 2018. IWIP was also established to facilitate the mineral processing process and production of electric battery components.

Central Halmahera has also turned into a heavy industrial area. The environment began suffering damage.

When we visited Sagea, rising dust became a common sight, littering the main road.

Sagea Village, with its 937 residents, is also experiencing the impact of the ecological damage that is underway. Similarly the flora and fauna ecosystem around the village.

Yani, a resident of Sagea Village who sells goods in the area, said that since ancient times, various species of birds have inhabited Boki Moruru Cave. However, since the mines arrived, their population has begun to decrease.

“In the past there were lots of them (parrots, parrots) but now they are (not) the same as before. After the company came in,” said Yani, when interviewed on Sunday (28/1/2024).

Yani said that in the past few people dared to enter the forest because it was dark and many animals, including birds, used to live there, but not anymore. Yani also mentioned that even the floods in the area caused flocks of maleo birds (Macrocephalon maleo) to disappear.

The Bokimoruru area is filled with lush forests.

Andi Rahman, a tourist who has visited Boki Moruru Cave several times, observed the same thing. He believes that mining expansion activities have threatened bird habitat in the area.

Moreover, according to Andi, there is no large-scale hunting in Sagea Village that can drastically reduce the bird population, as has occurred in several other villages in North Halmahera.

“Here in Sagea Village, bird hunting does not seem to be a significant livelihood. [Unlike] in Kosa Village (a village in the Tidore Islands), some people live there,” he said.

Adlun Fikri, #SaveSagea activist, said that day after day the endemic birds in the Boki Moruru Cave area are flying away because their environment is being disturbed by mining activities.

“If we compare before the industry existed, compared to now or in my childhood, I could still hear the chirping of birds, the buzzing of wasps, and the calls of parrots on the outskirts of the village. Indeed, the birds are getting farther away every day because of human activity, the most significant being mining activity,” he said, Saturday 27 January 2024.

He said that the extractive industry requires large-scale land to carry out mining. It is certain that wild animals will be displaced, and even threatened with extinction.

“Even though we don’t have exact data on how many types of wild birds are here (Boki Moruru area, ed.) , in general it is almost the same as the distribution of birds in North Maluku,” said Adlun.

He also doubts that the local government possesses data regarding the ecosystem in the area.

“Local governments must identify. Because if you want to protect without species data, it’s useless. We don’t even know whether the regional government has the data or not,” said Adlun.

Several other environmentalists we spoke with also shared similar concerns.

Even Masri Santuli, a lecturer at the Muhammadiyah University of North Maluku and a resident of Sagea, said that environmental changes have occurred in the Boki Moruru Cave area since 2013.

Mining activities have impacted not only Boki Moruru but also Lake Yonelo (Talaga Lagaye Lol) to the west of Sagea Village.

“Be it a day of rain or a flood lasting two days, moreover, the Sagea area is called a watershed area, a river basin. There are many watersheds behind Sagea in Boki Moruru Cave,” he explained.

According to him, before the mining corporation arrived, Boki Moruru and Lake Yonelo had a diverse array of species, especially birds such as white cockatoos, parrots, angel birds and others.

“Even when visiting Boki Moruru, sometimes we find deer. But now, after the company is established, we don’t see some of the animals around there,” he continued.

He believes that the government still undervalues and neglects the importance of biodiversity conservation.

The government, he added, doesn’t care that these birds will go extinct.

“It’s different from mining potential, because nickel has a high economic value compared to biodiversity. In fact, the loss of biodiversity in one area can lead to natural degradation and ecological damage,” explained Masri.

Meanwhile, the Director of Walhi North Maluku, Faisal Ratuela, emphasized the impact of PT. IWIP’s development and nickel mining company operations will gradually have an impact on bird populations in the forests of Central Halmahera.

The company’s operations, explained Faisal, will narrow the living space for animals. These animals will eventually face extinction or migrate to safer habitats.

“We see massive clearing of areas that are eliminating the habitat of parrots and other species. The birds that live in this place have decreased significantly,” said Faisal.

The disappearance of these birds, he continued, would damage the stability of the ecosystem in Boki Moruru.

When asked what actions the Regional Government of Central Halmahera should take to save endemic birds, he emphasized the need for reinstating a moratorium on the mining industry.

“Stringent permit regulations are crucial for forest protection and ecosystems in the region,” said Faisal emphasizing.

In 2023, Burung Indonesia, an organization dedicated to bird conservation and habitat preservation, recorded bird diversity. There are 350 bird species recorded and 282, including 29 endemic species, live on the Halmahera Islands.

When met on Tuesday (30/1/2024), Benny Aladin, the Maluku Islands Indonesian Bird Coordinator, said that the bird population in the Boki Moruru Cave area had decreased.

Extractive businesses such as mining, said Benny, will cut down forests so that they have a significant impact on birds.

“There used to be, now there isn’t because there is no longer any habitat for them to use for finding food, breeding and so on,” Benny said.

Bird populations, he continued, tend to decline throughout North Maluku, not just in Central Halmahera. However, the decline in Central Halmahera occurred most rapidly, particularly endemic birds like the mandar gendang, the gloomy kingfisher, and the Halmahera kepudang”.

“There are two options: the birds can leave, or the ecosystem will eventually degrade due to the loss of their habitat and food sources. If they migrate, it will affect other bird species, and the ecological balance will be disrupted. There is animal competition there,” he explained.

Regarding population data, Benny said that Burung Indonesia is currently preparing a data collection plan in the Boki Moruru Cave area.

“This is still our plan with friends in Central Halmahera, including the Boki Moruru Community, to take the initiative to carry out comprehensive data collection on biodiversity around the Sagea karst area. However, the timing is not ideal. Yesterday they started data on the location of the inside of the cave,” he said.

It has been proposed that our area is of high conservation value. So, if the area has conservation value, there is no other way than to protect the karst area.

Benny urged for wise management of the Halmahera area especially as industry is growing there. If you are not wise and take the wrong steps, he continued, it will have an impact not only on animals, but also on humans.

“Now this phenomenon has occurred,” said Benny.

Meanwhile, Head of Section (Kasi) of the Maluku Region I Ternate Natural Resources Conservation Agency (BKSDA), Abas Urasan emphasized that his party was working according to its main duties and functions.

The BKSDA team is responsible for monitoring land within designated conservation areas, while areas outside of these zones fall under the jurisdiction of the local government. Currently, said Abas Urasan, Sagea Village has not been designated as a conservation area.

“In South Halmahera Regency there are 3, such as in Bacan, Obi Island and the other is between the two islands. There are also two in the Sula Islands and two in Taliabu. Not yet for the Sagea Village area,” he said.

Abas said that currently there are mining companies that have established communication with BKSDA regarding nature conservation in mining areas.

“So, coincidentally yesterday, in their permit (IWIP, ed.) there was an obligation, first to create a sanctuary, a kind of cage for the endemic birds there. Secondly, if I’m not mistaken, we included a few areas that have high biodiversity,” said Abas.

Apart from that, according to him, BKSDA frequently offers recommendations for conservation areas during spatial planning meetings with the Forestry Service and the PUPR Service.

BKSDA often proposes that several areas be immediately designated as conservation areas. The reason is, Abas explained, if it has been designated as a conservation area then no one can commit environmental crimes there.

Abas also admitted that there had indeed been a decline in the bird population in Sagea. However, mining companies are not the sole cause, but also the clearing of residential land.

“Since February 7, 2024, the author has attempted to contact PT IWIP to get their response regarding this article, but there was no response until the article was published.

There are no comments yet. Leave a comment!

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.