It had been raining endlessly for two days in Rangkasbitung, Pandeglang, Serang, Cilegon and Merak. In April, the dry season should have started in Banten. The upstream of Ciujung River began to overflow. The road was covered by rainwater, making it hard for a motorbike driver to see a pothole. I went down the muddy road toward the southern part of Rangkasbitung. Not infrequently, my motorbike was twisted here and there like a confused person. I traveled in the middle of the dark clouds and heavy rain, finding out whether or not the quartz sand quarries were active in the rainy season. Usually it would be difficult to get into the sand quarry area because it was guarded by the bouncers. The residents called them Jawara, but for me they were only usual residents. Jawara today was impossible to exist in the sand quarry or gold mine. There was a shift in labeling the Jawara which was far different today by the community. In the past, the role of the Jawara had been to protect the citizens and kyai (Islamic clerics). Now, Jawara became the henchmen for the rich. In fact, they could be their right-hand men. I tried to mingle with the sand miners in the middle of the rain. For the sand quarry operators, security was important, usually to avoid illegal miners or ‘envelope journalists’. Protecting the sand quarry was just as important as protecting their income.
Flakes of fine sand were carried by the rainwater down to the main road of which the shape was irregular, flowing from the hills that looked like the shape of the leftover nasi tumpeng (cone-shaped yellow rice). There were holes here and there. In Cimarga area, it was not difficult to find a pile of quartz sand that scattered on the roadside. This area was classified as sand mining area, one of many sand quarries in Lebak. Generally, the Local Government people and the journalists called it by the name of ‘Quarry C’. The spread points of the sand quarries that I knew were in the Sajira and Citeras area. There were dozens of them. On the average, the ownerships of the quarrying business were owned by entrepreneurs from outside Lebak area. The result of the quartz sand quarrying was sold to Serang, Tangerang, Jakarta and Bogor. I got this information from one of the small-scale sand quarry workers, Mr. Hata.
Like a foreman, I looked at the muddy stream from a hut near the place where the Cisimeut and Ciberang River united. A sand quarry worker was resting after had stuck a shovel into a pile of the remaining sand which had been carried away by a one-ton-loaded truck. At that time, the vigor of the rain was as strong as the flow of the river. The sand quarry felt like an extension of the power of the entrepreneur who wanted to make a profit as much as possible. I was not far away from the worker, taking pictures with my camera phone. Seeing that my camera phone started to get dewy, I took a shelter immediately.
When I introduced myself, initially I was suspected of being a spy of the next-door quarrying company. “It is understandable because the next-door company reduces the selling price of the sand to the lowest point,” said Hata, a miner who had preferred to quit from the mining company. He was a resident who came from Cikedung. To survive now, he just gathered the quarrying waste from the gutter, piling it up on the side of the road for sale. The price was 30,000 IDR per cubic meter and it was sold per one colt diesel 4×4 truck which could load 6 to 7 cubic meters.
When I pointed to the quarry site and asked about the average of the production of the sand quarrying when he had worked at the company, he thought for a moment, then replied, “Hmm, how much? I forget! Probably about up to 40,000 tons per month. The sand that was transported was still wet, sir, so it was heavy.”
I pointed at a mound of the land of sand, which was a stream before, which was often called ‘the arising land’. Rangkas people called it bungin, which was now a bamboo garden beside the sand quarry that belonged to Hata. I asked about the past land conflict event as a result of the shift of the stream.
“Sometimes the issue of the land on the riverbank became a quarrel. Even the property land often became a problem, let alone the arising land. If only the river could be ordered, I would have felt satisfied if that land was eroded again by the river. Indeed, that land has once become a dispute. It was because H. Asbulloh felt that the land was his. Now the land is managed by his son, H. Assam. Father and son, both are greedy. There is another land owned by his son near the grave of Surakman. Instead of preserving the grave, he excavated the soil little by little for the field expansion. Now the rice field expands, while the grave becomes smaller. If you want to get complete information about the sand quarry in Cimarga, maybe you should ask the owner of the company to be clear. Usually, once a week Kokoh comes to location. Almost all of the sand quarrying businesses are owned by outsiders.”
As far as I knew, this hilly area was the place of many robbers. Each story of them made every driver who would pass that area get goose bumps. On the right side of the road, from the direction of Cimarga District towards Leuwidamar, there was a hill filled with coconut trees and tall shrubs. While on the left side was the bank of the river. The brown soil was seen in many places on the bank of the river based on the structure and composition of the rock that had formed sediment as a result of the river erosion. The cliffs of the river consisted of ground that sloped down to the river. Generally, in the rural area of Lebak, a view like this was often found. Basically, the quartz sand was part of the main raw materials in building. The quartz sand was used by the building industry for casting the walls of the building. The quartz sand, also known as white sand, was the result of weathering of rocks. The quartz sand quarrying in Lebak was conducted by open-pit mining method or spray system quarry. The water was sucked from Ciujung River using a diesel engine, depending on the location and the spread of sediment. The excavation of the hill’s cover soil of the quartz sand quarry, the unloading, the loading and transporting were very uncontrollable on the bank of Ciujung River.
The morphology of the riverbanks in Lebak was dominated by steep hills with many valleys. The morphology like this showed the area that was prone to abrasion and landslide. Lebak had a great and plentiful potential of ‘Quarry C’ (quartz sand) material. During the New Order era, the C-type quarries were untouched because people were focusing on the sand dredging in the river. If there was any, it was not in a large scale. It should be noted that the river at that time was still helped by the trees that were rich in water catchment, which grew in the upstream to the downstream. During the Dutch government era, various expedition missions entered the rural areas to locate the A-category mining area (gold mine), which was located in Southern Cikotok, an area known as the gold mine in Lebak. However, the mineral of A-category mine, had been repeatedly explored. Now, ‘A’ was just a name, because it was actually just a regular mine in the form of small mining holes that were managed by the residents traditionally.
The C-type quartz sand quarries in Lebak Regency had once been assumed to be limited. Almost all of them had been used for houses. Now, the needs and demand were mostly for building materials and industry in the city centers. Seeing the quarrying area points which were spread, Lebak indeed had enormous potential, so that it became an easy target for entrepreneurs from outside. Now, it was not difficult to find a location of a large-scale ‘Quarry C’. It could be found with a size of dozens of hectares, leaving steep cliffs and puddle of water which looked like an artificial lake. The number of the reserves had great potential in the districts in Lebak. My investigation result was that the sand and rock mines were quite a lot in Lebak. Some of them that I found were on the bank of the upstream of Ciujung River which was located in the Cimarga, Sajira and Citeras Districts. The quartz sand in Rangkasbitung was commonly called white sand. The cliff was eroded and carried by the water then formed sediments on the river banks.
***There were only two types of sale of quartz sand in Rangkasbitung. The price of the type of super-quality white sand was 150,000 IDR per cubic meter. Meanwhile, the price of the brown quartz sand was 109,000 IDR. The transaction was usually done in the area of the quarry and it was delivered directly to the recipient. The sand price did not include the delivery cost.
“Our sand material uses a layer of filter before it is delivered. The excavated sand is filtered first so that it produces good quality sand. The next stage is a washing process so that the sand is not mixed with gravel and clean from mud. That’s why, each delivery truck will pour washing water from the truck. This price is cheap compared with the price in the next-door place,” said Oka, a young entrepreneur of sand quarry.
Oka went on to explain that his company was also legal. It had already gotten a business license from the Regional Government and the Provincial Government. “Do not think that we do not pay the retribution. If calculated roughly, honestly, this business spends so much on the road, illegal levies. I mean, there is a lot of money that we have to give to the government. Here, there is also a company that belongs t
o one of the government workers, a former Regent of Lebak. The land and the means of transport of the sand were private properties,” he continued.
The risk of mining business and natural phenomena were common things. Abrasion, erosion and landslide often happened for the businessmen of ‘Quarry C’. Those natural disasters were not their business. What matter to them was how to deal with the problem of the bribe they had to do to parties who obstructed the business so that they could get a license. The legal quartz sand quarrying could be problematic let alone the illegal one. The sand quarrying business often harmed many people when the rainy season came. Where did this problem come from? Who was to blame? Who should be responsible? Was there any other reason than ‘to get something to eat’?
The regulation was just a regulation. In area such as Lebak, Banten, it seemed that a regulation was made to be broken. Regional regulations had often been made. There were several regulations associated with quartz sand quarrying licensing. Among them was: Regional Regulation of Lebak Regency No. 7/ 2004, on the General Mining Management (2004 Regional Sheet of Lebak Regency No. 11 series B) that was not imposed anymore in the case of the tax of the C-type mining material collecting. The Regional Regulation of Lebak Regency No. 6/2010 on Local Taxes and article 57, paragraph 2 of 2010 Regional Regulation on the Object of Taxes of Land and Mining, as well as article 1, paragraph 4 about the Retribution of the Mining Company reappeared.
When disasters and damage to the road sector feels, then this rule becomes quote the most widely published in the media as a form of criticism on the pretext of law made by the Government. So how the attitude of Local Government and Provincial Government? This regulation is only black over white. It is just simply a text trimmer. Even local departments, instead, seems like to build the barn of project when the damage of environmental impacts occur everywhere. It is public secret, that the roads in Lebak damaged. This area is like deliberately isolated from urban centers. Even if it’s repaired, it’s only as certaint requirement, in other words to construct asphalt roads with the lowest quality. When the road was getting worse and got massive media coverage, both parties then recriminations and provide an explanation if it belongs to the district or province. For me, as a local citizen, it becomes noticeably vague because we do not know which one the district streets and provincial roads are.
***I remembered a story of my friend when he was the most critical students in Lebak, when he and his group desperately urged for shutting down of sand excavation. They came directly to the Department of Mines and Energy of Lebak. He asked for mining sand excavation was just closed due to it caused the destructive path. A week later, a group of students protest was covered by the local media. In an interview, he said that he would confiscate if the owner of the base sand violate the law. Protest continued, urging Distamben (Department of Mining and Energy) to close the Provincial mining sand excavation activities that violate the law K-3 which regulate mining.
The incident occurred when I was often home-away from Jakarta to Lebak. In 2008, a lot of sand mining entrepreneurs who were not going green. That was be supposed that a matter of greening was an obligation after the sand mining was completed. Now, the environmental conditions in the area of the former sand quarry is damaged. After gold, coal and ceramic materials, quartz sand has now become an idol.