Since 2001, several NGOs and other observers have raised concern over illegal gold panning activities in the Buper Waena area of the Jayapura municipality. On 26 June 2020, a team of police investigators arrested 17 persons. The officers seized heavy tools as well as chemicals, among them two gold panning machines, six excavators and mercury (see intro image, source: Jubi). According to the Chief of the Jayapura Municipality Police, Gustav Urbinas, the mining activities violate the Law on Minerals and Coal, the Law on Environmental Management and the Law for the Prevention and Eradication of Forest Destruction. The gold miners had received permission from a local indigenous leader holding the customary land rights in the Buper area. However, they failed to arrange the mandatory government permits for the mining operation.
The local environmental organisation ‘Friends of the Earth Papua’ (Walhi Papua) expressed regret that the illegal mining operation had proceeded for years even though the mineral extraction site is located in the Jayapura municipality, where several environmental non-profit organisations have their headquarters. The late intervention by law enforcement institutions was reportedly also linked to police-internal deficits. According to the media outlet Jubi, police chief Urbinas had already given the order to stop the mining operation in April 2020. The case was later shifted to another criminal investigator because there was no progression in the case under the investigating predecessor.