Illegal gold rush hits Indonesia’s forest – by Lauren Farrow (AAP Southeast Asia/ – April 29, 2016)

It took illegal miners less than two weeks to destroy six hectares of lush forest in one of Indonesia’s precious national parks – all in pursuit of gold.

Underneath the now moon-like landscape of Central Sulawesi’s Lore Lindu National Park, people risk mine shaft collapses to dig up hundreds of kilograms of rock that will wield just grams of gold.

They will earn around $A1.40 an hour, while the men above ground – who haul large sacks of rock upon their shoulders down steep cliffs – will make even less. The mining site at Lore Lindu was once the territory of a small number of people who sat ankle deep in water, panning for gold.

Then a “story” of a woman finding a nugget at the site spread. The eureka moment never happened, Aris Bira, executive director of the environmental group Walhi, Central Sulawesi, says but the myth was enough to lure more than 5000 of Indonesia’s nomadic miners to the national park in January and February this year.

In March, numbers shrank to around 500 after troops and police set fire to people’s makeshift shelters.

Despite the risk of law enforcement, the clicking and scratching of shovels continue.

When AAP visited the site this month, Martin from North Sulawesi was one of those who remains.

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