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Villagers suffer major crop losses due to copper mine irrigation: 'How can I not be angry?'

The success of crops is what puts money on the table for agriculturalists.

The success of crops is what puts money on the table for agriculturalists.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Copper from a local mine has contaminated water in one part of Java, wreaking havoc on some farmers' livelihoods.

What's happening?

In East Java's Pacitan district, waste from a copper mine operated by PT Gemilang Limpah Internusa (GLI) has polluted the Kedung Pinihan River, an irrigation source for local rice farmers, Mongabay reported. In fact, local water samples found concentrations of copper compounds at 25 times the recommended standard governed by Indonesian environment ministry rules, according to the publication.

As a result, rice farmers are facing failing crops.

"How can I not be angry?" a local farmer named Parno told Mongabay Indonesia. "It's been 20 days and the plants are not growing."

Parno has even tried planting other crops like soybeans and corn, but with even worse results.

Why is this contamination concerning?

A local leader told Mongabay that the pollution has affected some 200 farmers.

The success of crops is what puts money on the table for agriculturalists, and rice farmers across much of Indonesia are already facing tough times because of a combination of hotter conditions with El Niño and the overheating of the planet. 

Plus, these farmers were already struggling to keep up with rising costs of staples like seed, fertilizer, and equipment, according to Mongabay.

Globally, rice prices are soaring to record highs because of warmer-than-normal conditions along with export restrictions in India, a major player in the rice trade. This will affect the 3.5 billion people who rely on this food staple. 

However, it's not only rice that is affected by more volatile weather conditions across the globe. For instance, drought has devastated maize output in southern Africa, while olive production has suffered for the same reason in Spain. Meanwhile, researchers are racing to create crop hybrids that can withstand new climatic conditions, including melons with drought and heat tolerance and more adaptable varieties of potatoes.

What's being done about the mining pollution?

GLI has acknowledged some responsibility for the contamination, according to its lawyer. The company is reportedly cleaning up existing waste and building a reservoir for its future storage. Plus, the company plans to build a new irrigation source for farmers.

Muhammad Jamil, legal head of the Mining Advocacy Network, also told Mongabay that the company should be held accountable for farmers' lost revenue. 

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