Padang, W Sumatra (ANTARA) - The West Sumatra police have arrested 20 persons suspected of mining gold illegally at two sites in Sijunjung District, West Sumatra Province, amid a central government push to enforce a law against illegal mining.

The illegal mining sites are located in Jorong Taratak Malintang Kenagarian Limo Koto VII, Sijunjung District. Ten of the suspects have been identified by their initials as Z, AR, WN, RRS, TT, MZA, AR, YH, TK, and P, said West Sumatra Police Spokesman Sen.Coms Stefanus Satake Bayu Setianto.

Speaking to journalists here on Tuesday, he said ten other suspects have also been arrested for their role in the illegal mining of gold. The suspects, identified by their initials as J, AJ, MW, AW, M, BS, AO, SOS, and FA, include a field operator, a backhoe driver, and workers.

The suspects, who were all caught red-handed at the mining sites along with three backhoes, have confessed that they mined the sites illegally for five days, but could only produce 36 gold pieces, he added.

"They sold all of the gold pieces," he said, adding that police investigators are still hunting down two more persons, identified as EPI and Wendi, who funded the mining activities, according to the suspects.

Illegal mining activities have been blamed for some of the environmental damage that has resulted in landslides and flash floods in various parts of Indonesia.

In this context, President Joko Widodo (Jokowi) has drawn attention to the need for curbing illegal gold mining activities to 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 directed the local authorities to put a stop to illegal gold mining.

He had contended that illegal mining activities had fueled deforestation in Banten Province and needed to be curbed to prevent flash floods in future.

"In Lebak District, Banten, we can see forests being encroached for illegal mining. I have ordered the governor and the district head to put a stop to this," Jokowi remarked in Banjar Irigasi Village, Lebak Gedong Sub-district, in Banten on Jan 7.

Flash floods had claimed 10 lives and damaged 19 schools in six districts, in addition to 1,410 homes, on Jan 1 in Lebak District.

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Translator: Mario SN, Rahmad Nasution
Editor: Sri Haryati
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