Mining, regardless of its type, has a serious impact on people’s livelihoods and the surrounding environment, especially in terms of access to water. The most marginalized as a consequence of access to water are women. They bear a lot of domestic workloads such as fetching water for household needs.
A study by Irianti and Prasetyoputra (2019) shows that 42.3% of the households studied depended on the role of adult women in fetching water from water sources amidst the minimum supply of water from the government. As much as 1.57% of households even rely on girls to fetch water (Irianti & Prasetyoputra, 2019).
So, damage to water sources due to mining will automatically have a direct impact on the burden borne by women in the household.
Women are becoming less and less flexible in fulfilling their livelihoods and their burden is increasing in the production function (paid work) and reproduction (work in the household). The role of women in the domestic sphere, especially so far, has never been acknowledged for its contribution from an “economic” perspective by viewing the domestic sphere as a place of consumption. In fact, women play an important role in supporting the family’s livelihood, such as in taking water (Ford & Parker, 2008).
The structure of knowledge from society and the government since the New Order, even perpetuated the role of women as limited to being “husband’s complement” and limited to household work.
A serious problem arises because some women may also have to supplement their family’s source of income by taking on other jobs, including those related to the mining chain, amid their burdens in the household.
It further seeks to see the various burdens of reproduction and production for women that arise as a result of disruption to water access due to mining. It further seeks to see the dilemma of the condition of women who are (forced to) survive to be part of the mining chain or even completely oppose mining to maintain “good conditions” or even be marginalized as a result of mining activities.
The people’s “defeat condition” due to mining is the most difficult situation faced by women and it usually starts with disruption of access to water. This condition, for example, was faced by women from Long Loreh Village, South Malinau, Malinau Regency as a result of a river being polluted by coal mining operation waste (Shahbanu et al., 2018a).
Pollution of the river makes agricultural production no longer sufficient to support the livelihood of families in Long Loreh. As a result, women have to participate in seeking additional income by growing vegetables to sell amidst the burdens of their household.
The damage to the Malinau River meant that they had to travel about 20 minutes by motorbike for irrigation purposes. In fact, residents depended on a tributary near their house before it was polluted by coal waste.
The coal company is trying to provide access to PDAM water to residents as “compensation,” but the raw water that is taken still comes from polluted rivers and the water flow is not always smooth.
Damage to the river due to coal waste makes residents have to travel further distances to the fields for 2-3 hours from the village. In fact, before it was only 10-20 minutes by foot.
Mining companies seek to “facilitate” the people by providing drivers and trucks to transport residents to the fields. The burden on women actually increases because their bodies get tired easily because they have to stand in the truck for an hour or more. Their work in farming is not optimal because they are tired (Shahbanu et al., 2018a).
River water is no longer suitable for cooking so women have to drive for 10 minutes to a tributary that has not been polluted with the limited capacity of only taking two to three jerry cans. The need for a lot of water sometimes makes them have to go back and forth (Shahbanu et al., 2018a).
Residents in Jawa, Sanga-sanga, Kutai Kartanegara Village are facing a similar condition, with the effects of pollution having damaged the people’s wells. This happens because mining waste is channeled through drainage that passes through settlements and the mining distance is close to residents’ homes.
The findings of the Mining Advocacy Network (Jatam) even show that residents’ wells have an acid content exceeding the quality standard and some are drying up (Affandi et al., 2023).
The extraordinary impact is felt by the people because of the common wells for cooking, washing and even the raw material of the drinking water business. The mine’s sour water makes the well water cloudy, smelly and “a bit tasteless.”
Residents are even vulnerable to flood runoff from mine waste water which can damage household furniture. Floods also add to the burden on women by having to provide time and energy to clean up residual mud that has entered the house (Affandi et al., 2023). Thus, the reproductive burden increases not only in terms of meeting their water needs, but also their safety.
Residents have to raise their houses and build embankments at their own expense. Meanwhile, the company only sends officers to knock on residents’ doors during high rainfall. This is done because companies are reluctant to bear losses due to environmental damage.
Women who work as washing workers are one of the parties who are harmed by wells that cannot be used anymore. The company only installs PDAM water access, residents still have to pay for it themselves. The burden of women working as laundry workers is increasing.
PDAM water is also unconsumable, so women have to spend more money to buy water. Women who are more marginalized have to collect rainwater for their bathing and washing needs (Affandi et al., 2023).
The situation is no less complicated for women in Kota Niur Village, Bengkulu. The difference is, they are forced to become part of the coal mining chain to survive.
Women are forced to become collectors of coal runoff which is carried away by river water because their rice fields have been damaged and the water cycle has been disrupted due to mining operations in their village (Shahbanu et al., 2018b).
Coal run-off in the river essentially demonstrates the poor operating practices of the mines on the site and changes the way women interact with the water cycle and watersheds. Rain is actually considered a “blessing” for women in Niur City because it brings coal runoff that residents can collect.
The river, which was already dark in color, was forced to be used by residents to bathe during the long dry season in 2015. The activity of collecting coal is also a source of income while waiting for the coffee and rubber harvests. Coal also has a relatively stable price in the midst of declining rubber prices (Shahbanu et al., 2018b).
Women face occupational safety risks when collecting coal. Coal collection at night carries a greater risk of being washed away than during the day.
Coal collection near crushers also makes women vulnerable to being buried in large debris. Women’s burdens increase after the environment is damaged, they find it difficult to balance production and reproductive roles in contrast to when their rice fields have not been damaged (Shahbanu et al., 2018b).
Women who are forced to be part of the mining chain are also felt in Gampong Gunung Ketek, South Aceh District, housewives looking for additional income as gravel miners. Also in Gampong Gunung Ketek because the mining process relies on river water and depends on the rainy season (Sundari, 2019). The pebbles carried by the water during the rainy season are a separate “blessing” for women.
There are women who take part in the task of loading gravel onto a transport truck to supplement their income.
Women become miners because their education level is low and they cannot access “better” jobs. Women have a low level of education because their parents’ ability to send them to a further level is very limited and they have to participate in earning income from an early age.
Husbands who have limited incomes and women who change their status to widows are other incentives for them to become miners. The women of Mount Ketek are actually aware that their actions have damaged the riverbed and hindered the flow of water, which has resulted in a decrease in income (Sundari, 2019).
Sand and stone mining by women is also carried out in the Gendol River Basin, Sleman Regency. They rely on physical strength and age in making a living.
The difficulty for women to find other sources of livelihood is the reason why they choose to become miners. Women who become miners are at a productive age between 30-50 years and have a low level of education (Hastuti, 2017).
Women also have limited land tenure, namely under 1,000 square meters and have the status of a “pre-prosperous family.” Those on the Gendol river are also aware that this action causes erosion upstream, increases the risk of landslides, and even reduces the source of water springs. Having no other choice, they were forced to continue mining. (Hastuti, 2017).
The situation is different in Mount Mutis, East Nusa Tenggara (NTT) and Kendeng Mountains, Central Java, where women oppose mining in order to maintain a source of livelihood including water.
The plan to mine marble in Mount Mutis, NTT is strongly opposed by women because of their ties to nature as a source of water and natural dyes for their weaving. Women who are directly related to the use of water for household needs have been the main parties against mining since 1999 led by Aleta Baun (Nagari, 2020).
Women come to people’s homes to invite others to fight to “occupy” the mining site.
Not only are they vulnerable to repression, women’s struggles face challenges from a social structure that still considers them unfit to be leaders.
Aleta Baun finally succeeded in gathering the support of hundreds of villagers and 150 women to fight back by weaving at the door of the mine site in 2006.
Women and men share roles in the resistance. Women weave from morning to evening, while at night the men sleep at the mine site.
Men are tasked with taking turns doing domestic work when women put up resistance (Nagari, 2020). Their struggle paid off in 2007 after receiving the government’s attention.
The resistance of women in Mount Mutis, NTT arose also BECAUSE of the knowledge of the Mollo tribe which views the unity of humans and nature. One of the strategies adopted by the women in Mollo is to express their breasts to show that if land is taken the same as breast milk is also taken. They can’t breastfeed anymore.
Aleta Baun likens water, forests, rocks and soil to the human body. Soil is like flesh, water is like blood, forests are considered as veins and hair, and stones are like bones (Dalupe, 2020).
The struggle of women in the Kendeng Mountains, Central Java is carried out on a basis similar to viewing nature as a picture of a mother. Mothers will give birth to children, while the earth as “mother” gives birth to water, plants and other natural products for local residents.
Women in Kendeng also imagine that water is like blood, land is seen as bone, and forests are seen as hair (Puspitasari, 2017). The entry of mining for the allotment of a cement factory is feared by women which can cause the loss of water sources which they have taken “for free.”
The work of the Kendeng women, who previously took care of household affairs and fed livestock, was done by her husband when the women protested in Jakarta (Puspitasari, 2017).
Women even check springs that are vulnerable to mining impacts. The residents’ findings show that there are differences in the springs listed in the environmental impact analysis (Amdal) with field conditions. The company’s Amdal said there were only nine caves, while local residents found 64 caves. The Amdal stated that there are 40 springs, whereas in the field there are 125 water sources (Komnas Perempuan, 2019).
The Amdal also did not mention ponor, even though residents found that there were 28 ponor points. Mining should not be done if there is a ponor. Ponor is a place for water absorption before it enters the underground river and becomes a “social asset.”
Women have their own calculations based on their knowledge. Farming families need 500 liters of water for household needs, irrigation and livestock. Springs that are threatened will automatically affect all livelihoods (Komnas Perempuan, 2019).
The burden of production and reproduction for women affected by mining cannot be separated from their responsibility to provide enough water for their families.
Those who are forced to be part of the mining chain and women who are excluded have a different relationship, where they are forced to choose other survival strategies in the midst of a hydrological cycle damaged by mining.
In contrast to women who fight against mining, they actually want to maintain the existing hydrological cycle to ensure that their water needs are met.
The increased reproductive burden is felt by both those who are excluded, forced to become part of the mining chain, as well as those who oppose it.
The inclusion of mining along with a social structure that persists in the absence of provision of water services for the people basically keeps women in a difficult condition as water takers for their families.