- Illegal online mercury sales are booming in Indonesia.
- Use of the toxic metal was banned in 2014, but it remains popular among small-time miners, for whom it’s become increasingly easy to procure online.
- It’s a quick and dirty process that constitutes the livelihoods of some 1 million people spread across the country. But prolonged exposure to mercury can have severe health consequences.
DENPASAR/BURU ISLAND, Indonesia — Illegal online mercury sales are booming in Indonesia, and activists have had enough. “Nearly all the mercury players in Indonesia do their business illegally,” says Yuyun Ismawati, a Goldman Prize-winning activist and founder of the environmental NGO BaliFokus.
“That includes manufacturers, traders, exporters, and users, especially in the small-scale gold mining sector.”
Use of the toxic metal was banned in 2014, but it remains popular among small-time miners, for whom it’s become increasingly easy to procure online. At least 60 sellers are currently running either on social media or on popular e-commerce sites Shopee and Bukalapak, according to local campaign groups. And little is being done to stop them.
One such trader is Awi. Awi has been selling mercury from the central Javan city of Yogyakarta, unloading 1.3-kilogram (2.9-pound) units of the metal for 1.5 million rupiah ($106) each — nearly a month’s wage in Indonesia’s poorest regions. “I’m the only one selling the ‘real thing,’” he told Mongabay. “All the others are selling fakes.”
Awi’s buyers are typically poor families living in mining hotspots like West Java province or the island of Lombok. These families mix the mercury with gold-flecked ore to create a mercury-gold amalgam, and then use fire to vaporize the mercury away, leaving behind just the gold.
For the rest of this article: https://news.mongabay.com/2019/04/illegal-online-sales-driving-mercury-pollution-crisis-in-indonesia/