The police officers also confiscated two excavators from the mining pits, Head of the West Aceh Police Precinct's Criminal Investigation Unit Adjunct Sen. Coms Parmohonan Harahap stated in Meulaboh on Monday evening (Nov 9).
Three of the seven suspects were arrested in the Reungeut neighborhood area of Pante Ceureumen Sub-district, while four others were apprehended in Lancong Village, Sungai Mas Sub-district, Harahap revealed.
The police investigators continue to interrogate the suspects to blow the lid off the financiers behind the illegal gold mining activities that were causal to environmental degradation, he noted.
Environmental damage, resulting in landslides and flash floods in various parts of Indonesia, has oftentimes been attributable to illegal mining activities.
In this context, President Joko Widodo (Jokowi) underscored the criticality of curbing illegal gold mining activities to help 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 instructed the local authority to end illegal gold mining.
The head of state contended that illegal mining activities had fueled deforestation in Banten Province and should be thwarted to prevent a relapse of flash floods in future.
Early this year, the Banten Provincial Police had undertaken sustained efforts to curtail illegal gold mining activities, including by shutting down 10 pits found within the Mount Halimun Salak National Park (TNGHS) area, Lebak, Banten.
According to Head of the Banten Provincial Police's Operational Bureau Sen. Coms. Aminudin Roemtaat, members of Banten's anti-illegal gold mining task force, comprising military and police personnel as well as representatives of several related agencies in the province, had closed the illegal mining pits.
During that time, members of the task force had conducted land patrols by visiting the blocks of Cimari, Cirotan, Cidandak, Gunung Leutik, Muara Tilu, Bunung Masigit, Pasir Wiru, Sopal, Cigadang, Ciburuluk, Ciawitali, Cikatumburi, Pasir Ipis, Ciburiling, Cikopo, and Cimadur.
Roemtaat pointed out that some of the sealed pits were found in the area of Citorek track, adding that the total number of illegal pits may reach "hundreds" and are located in areas, with challenging terrain.
Flash floods that hit Lebak District on January 1, 2020, claimed 10 lives and damaged 19 schools in six districts in addition to wrecking 1,410 houses.
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