In the small village of Cinangka, there are backyard smelters burning car batteries to melt and then resell the lead found inside. People living nearby complain of the affects of the high levels of lead in the air—children are born with defects and learning disabilities and adults suffer from headaches and nausea from the smoke. Though this practice is illegal, many officials turn a blind eye.
Gold was discovered on the islands of Lombok and Sumbawa in 2008. Local families learned the trade of small-scale gold mining, digging their own precarious tunnels and using mercury and cyanide to extract the gold from the ore. Deaths from tunnels collapsing are all too common and the mercury causes brain damage and tremors for not just the miners, but everyone living in the vicinity of the pollutants.
Lead and mercury permeate the soil, air, rivers and oceans, affecting not just the local communities but also all of us around the globe.
There is no simple solution. The people involved with these toxic practices are often the poorest of the poor and this is their livelihood. For them, to not mine or smelter may very well mean to not feed their family. However, if these dangerous methods continue, the whole world suffers.