Kaltim Prima Coal Mine, East Kalimantan Province, Indonesia

By Angelique Wilcox, SFSU, 2017

Kaltim Prima Coal mine is located in Indonesia, in the province of East Kalimantan.

Some of the impacts it has had on the region are:

  • Degradation of the natural landscape[1],
  • Uprooting of indigenous people[2],
  • Contamination of water sources[3],
  • Deforestation of the East Kutai National Park[4],
  • Harming of nearby women and youth[5]

These energy injustices were caused through exploitation colonialism and the resource curse.

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Transportation of coal down the river, a common site for the local communities. Central Kalimantan, Borneo. June 15th 2013. Credit: Andrew Taylor/WDM

Water impacts include:

  • Farmers experience effects from the coal mine due to waste leaks into
    Children in the nearby province of Central Kalimantan, another area known for coal mining, playing in a river with coal piles on the river banks. Credit: Andrew Taylor/WD

    their water sources, ruining harvests[6]

  • Loss of clean water for daily use due to contamination[7]
  • Mass quantities of fish have died, causing both economic and nutritional loss[8]
  • Lead concentration in rivers have been documented to be 18 times the legal concentration[9]

Displacement of Indigenous Peoples:

  • Communities have been forced to relocate[10]
    • One community had to uproot 3 times[11]
  • Promises of compensation for local land have not been kept[12] 
    • As of 2002, compensation had not been given for 18,000 acres of land[13]

Impacts of Mine on Women and Youth:

15599715888_0a9e36d169_o copy
A family from another mining community in Indonesia, where residents were forced to sell their land for low prices. Central Kalimantan, Borneo. June 7th 2013. Credit: Andrew Taylor/WDM
  • KPC typically employs men, while women tend to stay behind to care for the home[14]
  • Unequal sharing of finances in the household
    • [15] Many women feel powerless because they aren’t breadwinners[16]
  • Education level of women decrease, because men are the ones who work[17]
    • As education levels decrease, prostitution becomes more common[18]
  • Children don’t have many opportunities for jobs outside of the mine[19]
    • Ratio of jobs and applicants is 1 to 100[20]
    • As a result, many youth turn to alcohol and drugs as a way of coping[21]

Impacts on Human Health

When coal is burned, toxic chemicals are released into the air. Increased risks of heart disease and respiratory problems have been linked to coal pollution[22]. Although not specific to areas surrounding the KPC mine, rather Indonesia’s coal mines as a whole, “cause an estimated 6,500 premature deaths every year.” according to a Harvard study done by Greenpeace[23]. If current plans to build more coal fired power plants in Indonesia continue, it’s estimated that 28,300 deaths a year will occur due to particulate matter[24].


The KPC mine borders Kutai National Park, which has been deforested at a rate of 70% a year[25]. KPC commented on the deforestation, “We don’t deny

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Deforestation for another coal mine in nearby Central Kalimantan. Central Kalimantan, Borneo. June 8th 2013. Credit: Andrew Taylor/WDM

that some workers are involved in destroying the forest, because around 2,800 employees work for KPC. The company cannot monitor or control the activity of each of its workers[26].”

Exploitation Colonialism

Exploitation colonialism occurs when people that aren’t native to an area attempt to take over another area through exploitation of natural resources and indigenous people. This has happened around the KPC mine, as it has foreign investors who don’t mind destroying land to extract coal because they don’t live close enough to see the true environmental costs[27].  In 2012, the president of Indonesia signed an £7.5 billion deal to expand a mining project in Indonesia, with a UK based energy company[28]. This could explain why the Indonesian government refuses to take action regarding pollution from the mines[29]. The KPC mining concession is an example of colonialism because the local people have been used for cheap labor, while they also suffer from water pollution, loss of land, income inequalities among men and women, and energy injustice as ⅓ of Indonesia is without electricity; all while the foreign nations are making large profits from the coal mine[30].

Resource Curse

The resource curse is the idea that countries with an abundant amount of natural resources are often countries of great inequality and energy poverty[31]. Often times, the resource curse occurs when governments decide to center their economy around one export, such as Indonesia has with coal[32]. Around 1/3 of the population of Indonesia is without electricity; however, it ironically exports over 70% of its coal because foreign investors make higher profits from exported coal than coal traded within Indonesia[33]Although the KPC mine has contributed to the wealth of a few Indonesians and foreign businessmen, as a whole it has made the communities surrounding the mine poor[34]. Coal mining has also contributed to gender roles in society, where men are in charge of the household and women may not receive proper educations due to this[35]Many people have lost their homes due to intimidation from the mine to move out of the area. People have also experienced a lower quality of life due to polluted rivers and streams, poor air quality, and land degradation where they once had an almost untouched view of nature[36]


[1] The Ecologist. (2013). UK financed coal mining is devastating Indonesian Borneo. Retrieved from http://www.theecologist.org/campaigning/2100273/ukfinanced_coal_mining_is_devastating_indonesian_borneo.html

[2] The Ecologist (2013).

[3] Down to Earth. (2002). BP’s coal interest: Kaltim Prima. Retrieved from http://www.downtoearth-indonesia.org/story/bps-coal-interest-kaltim-prima

[4] Salaiman, N. (2008, November 21). CSR programs4in East Kutai ‘ineffective’ in helping environment. The Jakarta Post. Retrieved from http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2008/11/21/csr-programs-east-kutai-039ineffective039-helping-environment.html

[5] Lahiri-Dutt, K. & Mahy, P. (2007). Impacts of Mining on Women and Youth in East Kalimantan. World Bank. Retrieved from https://www.banktrack.org/download/cr3_kld_mahy_impacts_mining_indonesia_pdf/cr3_kld_mahy_impacts_mining_indonesia.pdf

[6] Down to Earth (2002).

[7] Scrivener, A. & Lund-Harket, S. (2013). Banking while Borneo Burns: How the UK financial sector is bankrolling Indonesia’s fossil fuel boom. World Development Movement. Retrieved from http://www.globaljustice.org.uk/sites/default/files/files/resources/banking_while_borneo_burns_0.pdf.

[8] Johansyah, M. et al,. Jatam East Kalimantan. (2014). PT KPC/Bumi Resources Deadly Coal. East Kalimantan.

[9] Johansyah, M. et al,. (2014).

[10] The Ecologist (2013).

[11] The Ecologist (2013).

[12] Down to Earth (2002).

[13] Down to Earth (2002).

[14] Lahiri-Dutt, K. & Mahy, P. (2007).

[15] Lahiri-Dutt, K. & Mahy, P. (2007).

[16] Lahiri-Dutt, K. & Mahy, P. (2007).

[17] Lahiri-Dutt, K. & Mahy, P. (2007).

[18] Lahiri-Dutt, K. & Mahy, P. (2007).

[19] Lahiri-Dutt, K. & Mahy, P. (2007).

[20] Lahiri-Dutt, K. & Mahy, P. (2007).

[21] Lahiri-Dutt, K. & Mahy, P. (2007).

[22] Greenpeace. (2015). Human Cost of Coal Power: How coal-fired plants threaten the health of Indonesians. Jakarta, Indonesia: Greenpeace Indonesia

[23] Greenpeace (2015).

[24] Greenpeace (2015).

[25] Salaiman, N. (2008, November 21).

[26] Salaiman, N. (2008, November 21).

[27] Scrivener, A. & Lund-Harket, S. (2013).

[28] Scrivener, A. & Lund-Harket, S. (2013).

[29] Down to Earth (2002).

[30] Scrivener, A. & Lund-Harket, S. (2013).

[31] Patrick, S.M. (2012, April 30). Why Natural Resources Are a Curse on Developing Countries and How to Fix It. The Atlantic. Retrieved from https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2012/04/why-natural-resources-are-a-curse-on-developing-countries-and-how-to-fix-it/256508/

[32]  Patrick, S.M. (2012, April 30).

[33]  Scrivener, A. & Lund-Harket, S. (2013).

[34]  Scrivener, A. & Lund-Harket, S. (2013).

[35] Lahiri-Dutt, K. & Mahy, P. (2007).

[36] [Global Justice Now]. (2013, Oct 1). Top five banks fuelling climate change. [Video File]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=36&v=Dk6AcoLq9J0.


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