Scores of children have died in old mining pits on site of new capital city

CNN Indonesia – February 4, 2022
Abandoned mining pits in East Kalimantan, the location of the new capital city – Undated (Antara)

Jakarta – Abandoned mining pits in East Kalimantan have already claimed many lives. Based on a report in 2021, forty people have died as a result of the mining pits, including in areas where the new capital city will be built.

The data on these deaths is included in a report by the East Kalimantan Mining Advocacy Network (Jatam). Calculated over the period 2011 to 2021, the mining pits have claimed some 40 victims.

Based on this data, Samarinda is the area contributing to the most loss of life from abandoned mining pits. Out of the 40 deaths, 23 of them were from the East Kalimantan provincial capital.

Aside from Samarinda, Kutai Kartanegara (Kukar) has also reported cases, with 13 deaths in West Kutai. North Penajam Paser and Paser meanwhile have recorded one and two cases respectively.

Out of the 40 cases, almost all of them were teenagers and children, with only seven of the recorded deaths being adults.

This phenomena has of course become a bug bear for local people because now, East Kalimantan, or more precisely North Penajam Paser has been selected as the site for the country's new capital city (IKN) Nusantara.

Based on the latest data from Jatam East Kalimantan, there are 149 abandoned mining pits in the area designated for the new capital.

Scores of mining pits are located in the second and third rings which will become extended and support areas for the city. Out of these 149 pits, 92 are in concession areas.

"Out of these 149, 92 of them are in mining concession (with permits). The remainder are outside of concessions", Jatim activist Pradarma Rupang told CNN Indonesia on Thursday February 3.

With the existence of these mining pits, Rupang believes that moving the capital city to East Kalimantan is reckless. Moreover the move is being rushed through without a clear environmental impact study.

Aside from Rupang, a number of national figures have also criticised the new capital city project. One of them is economist Faisal Basri who believes that the new capital city will become a “heaven surrounded by hell”.

This comparison, he said, is because the location of the new capital city is surrounded by oil, gas and coal mines as well as oil refineries. In addition to this, the new city will be surrounded by palm oil plantations which are well known for depleting soil fertility.

"This is unique, they (the government) are building a green city, a smart city, but what surrounds it is totally different. It will become a heaven surrounded by hell. Over time this heaven will also become hot", he said.

In response to these criticisms, IKN Communication Team Chairperson Sidik Pramono claims that the government will build Nusantara as a sustainable city. He said that the new capital will support a zero carbon emission platform, a green economy, a circular economy and a sustainable habitat.

Earlier, the National Development Planning Board (Bappenas) said its target was for the status of country's capital city to be moved from Jakarta to East Kalimantan in the first semester of 2024.

The capital city move however has attracted a great deal of criticism from the process of deliberating and enacting the IKN Law to environmental problems, budgetary issues and the design of the new state palace. (blq/DAL)


The majority of reported deaths are a result of children drowning while playing in abandoned mining pits which fill with water. A number of civil society groups have also accused the government of using the capital city move as a way to allow mining companies to avoid their legal obligation to rehabilitate abandoned mine sites. See

[Translated by James Balowski. The original title of the article was "Lubang Bekas Tambang Kaltim: 40 Tewas sejak 2011, Didominasi Anak".]