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Unveiling Ecological Injustice: The Ongoing Saga of Illegal Mining and the Silent Struggle for Environmental Recognition
Go Back | Ashmit A Awasthi , Dec 16, 2023 09:22 PM
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News Image Lucknow :  The Ministry of Mines, through Indian Bureau of Mines, has developed the Mining Surveillance System (MS) to use space technology for reporting any illegal mining activity to the State Government, who will take necessary action. Mining Surveillance System (MSS) is a satellite-based monitoring system which aims to detect illegal mining activity beyond the lease area through use of satellite images.
In pursuance of the provisions of Section 23(C) of the Act, 21 State Governments have framed rules to curb illegal mining. Also, 22 State Governments have set up Task Forces to control illegal mining and review the action taken by

- Findings found that the concept of environment, including environmental damage, is a social construction that can be selected and filtered by the public, to determine which ones will be raised and become an important issue in the public.
- Question of why to this day illegal mining cases still occur and tend to be ignored is because basically the definition of environmental harm is a matter of social construction and is openly interpreted and contested by the definition.
- The definition of illegal mining practices that are extrinsically categorized as legally unlawful practices, seems unable to explain this phenomenon holistically.
- The practice of small-scale mining that occurs is generally carried out illegally and the operations are far from set industry standards.
- The United Nations states that the small-scale mining sector is the largest source of mercury emissions in the world, as much as 1,000 tons per year, or the equivalent of 40% of the world's total (Casey, 2019).

member departments for checking the illegal mining activities at state and district levels.

Illegal and small-scale mining that occurs is often only seen as legal practices.
Consequently, the government's response towards it is more repressive ways, even negligent.
This paper suggests another perspective in understanding these practices, especially in questioning who or what has been harmed, how and why it happened this way.Although the detrimental effects of illegal mining are evident both socially and environmentally, there are social processes (interpretation and contestation) involved in determining the definition, scale, impact, and risk. Talking about why to this day illegal mining cases still occur and tend to be ignored is because basically the definition of environmental harm is a matter of social construction and is openly interpreted and contested by the definition.

The environment is seen by humans as more than just an ecological entity. The existence of humans makes the environment is also social. Referring to the case studies raised through this research, this opinion is at least illustrated by the massive small-scale mining practices carried out in Indonesia and on a global scale, where activities are often initiated by an economic orientation and neglected the impacts on the environment, such as mercury contamination in regional flows rivers due to gold mining activities in several areas in Central Java (Barkdull, Carling, Rey, & Yudiantoro, 2019). The possession of thinking in humans is the basis reason for humans to take the role and provide the most significant impact on the existence of the environment. Because humans have interactions and even dependence on the environment, regulations regarding the environment exist.
Environmental pollution and destruction occur on a large scale. The existence of environmental regulations thus is present in the condition of a tug-of-war between today's human survival and future generations. The existence of pressure for the environment to be able to 'provide' what is currently believed to be human needs, is a logical reason that should be able to explain this reality. Once again, the practice of illegal mining is one proof of this fact, where many rural communities are engaged in this work to improve their economic conditions (Ayers & Forsyth, 2009).
Also, the exploitation process from mining activities has brought environmental impacts, including degradation of soil structure, degrading to water resources and acid drainage, residual solid waste, radiation, damage to habitat and biodiversity, and soil erosion (Armah, Luginaah, & Odoi, 2013). Mining waste can also have other environmental impacts. Moreover, the use of mercury in gold mines, especially in the refining process, has become a practice that is identical to this case.
Environmental damage and pollution as well as health problems caused by mercury are inevitable impacts.

Mercury that is released into the environment can cause an imbalance in the ecosystem.
Regardless of its environmental impact, and its illegal status, these practices tend to be ignored by the government (Azkia, 2018). The subsequent omission forced the miners and other operators to operate independently, are not based on the principle of sustainable mining, had no work organization or economic organization, and shows low expertise. This in turn forms an endless causal relationship that is detrimental, especially for miners and the environment.


There are 4 considerations of key harm of Environment:
-Focal Considerations
-Geographical Considerations
-Locational Considerations
-Temporal Considerations

Although the four factors above will make it easier for researchers to categorize environmental harm, another weighing factor that is no less important is related to the transference of harm across space and time. This factor considers how harm can be transferred either over time or from one place to another. For that, it is important to understand risk (harm) as something dynamic, not something permanent.
Illegal mining practices can be categorized as environmental harm practices, which when associated with the concept of justice can be categorized as ecological justice. The real disadvantage is felt by miners who are structurally forced to continue to do this work and are exposed to mercury, including the biotic environment around the exploited mining area. Soil and river water that is directly contaminated with these harmful substances are certainly no longer healthy habitats for the plants and animals that originally lived.
Not only was the rights for the surrounding community and the miners to live a healthy life that was injured, but also the rights for the ecosystem and the living things that lived in it to continue to live, is also violated.
Harm arising from this illegal practice does not only occur in its original location because the river which is used as the location for gold ore processing is also contaminated. The river flows downstream so the harm caused is also widespread, with long-term effects that nobody knows for sure how vast is the impact.
These practices may engender a cumulative effect on the watershed which has an impact on the aquatic life, the toxins contained in the water may be consumed by fish and other creatures that live around it, and this will certainly have a huge social impact on fishermen and humans as the consumer of the fish.
In the end, the harms arising from illegal artisanal and small scale mining practices are clearly impacted the social and economic aspects of the miners or mine operators, surrounding communities, and even fishing communities as well as the group of consumers who consume seafood, and the ecological aspect of the local habitat, flora, and fauna, the wider ecosystem (rivers). However, the response of the state which tends to neglect and ignore the factors that perpetuate this practice, reflect how this issue is not sufficiently defined as 'important' by the authorities to obtain a broad social response and put into position in the public sphere.

This paper briefly describes how intended practices should be understood and analyzed. The natural environment is seen as a social construction, which will always be constructed according to the human culture that filters, selects, and categorizes them.
Environmental problems, including environmental harm, are seen as problems that are limited by what humans think is important or significant to their lives. For this reason, this view can sometimes be subjective for some groups of people, especially for those who have the power to control what needs to be highlighted in public and what does not.
Concerning the harm caused by this practice, the actors involved in mining practices still view that exploitation of the environment as a means to gain economic benefits. This is related to an anthropocentric philosophical point of view, which is studied by humans and continuously transferred and applied in everyday life, not only by the actors involved but also by local policymakers. Consequently, the harm of this practice, which is dynamic, is constantly moving from its original location to other locations, including the risks it carries.
If according to those who have control, this phenomenon is not "important" enough to be exposed to the public, then this practice will continue and be perpetuated. For this reason, this paper suggests the importance of rethinking the definition beyond its legal definition, by socially considering various important factors, especially for stakeholders involved in this phenomenon.
  Ashmit A Awasthi
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