Inside a Bangka Island Tin Mine


Bangka Belitung Island, Indonesia plays a crucial role as the world’s second-largest tin producer. With 83,000 tons of tin mined in 2021, accounting for 26 percent of the world’s total production, Indonesia is a powerhouse in the tin industry, second only to China.

The province of Bangka Belitung, home to a population of 1,223,296, relies heavily on tin mining for economic sustenance. Unfortunately, this economic boon comes at a cost. Most of the residents in Bangka Belitung engage in tin mining, making it a pivotal part of their livelihoods.

The rise of unconventional mining, spurred by regional autonomy policies in the early 2000s and shifts in the tin trading system, has significantly impacted the region. While it provides economic benefits, especially for the local population, it also poses environmental and social challenges.

One pressing issue is the alarming dropout rate among school children, with 86.3 percent of students leaving school due to unconventional tin mining, according to data from the Education Authorities of the Bangka Belitung Islands Province from 2019 to 2021. The allure of immediate financial gains from mining activities often takes precedence over education, leading to a significant number of children not attending school.

Legal and illegal tin mining activities, both on land and at sea, contribute to environmental degradation. Deforestation leading to soil erosion and the creation of artificial lakes causing water overflow and flooding are among the environmental threats. This exploitation also puts various plant and animal species at risk, contributing to the extinction of endemic flora and fauna.

The expansion of critical land in Bangka Belitung is a growing concern. In 2019, the Bangka Belitung Provincial Forestry Service recorded that critical land on the island had reached 20,078 hectares, with 98.77 percent considered critical and 227.86 hectares classified as urgent.

As the demand for tin continues to fuel the global electronics industry, the delicate balance between economic prosperity, environmental preservation, and social well-being remains a formidable challenge for Bangka Belitung and its residents. Sustainable practices and thoughtful policies are crucial to ensuring the longevity and harmony of this vital industry in the region.