Nickel mining is jeopardizing the traditional lifestyle of the Bajau people, renowned for their freediving skills, and posing a severe threat to the coastal environment. As the world’s top nickel producer, Indonesia plays a significant role in meeting the increasing global demand for this metal. However, conservationists caution that mining operations could have devastating environmental consequences. Labengki Island faces the risk of sea contamination due to waste from nearby nickel mines, harming both the island and its marine life. The presence of approximately 50 mining companies in North Konawe Regency has led to deforestation, open pits, and heightened risks of flooding and landslides. The use of chemicals in mining further endangers coral reefs through sedimentation. Local fishermen, like Lukman from Boenaga village, already struggle with the consequences, unable to fish near their homes due to the murky waters. Although compensation eases the immediate disruption caused by mining, concerns persist regarding the long-term environmental impact.

While the Indonesian government asserts that licensed mining companies adhere to regulations and employ water management systems, illegal mining operations contribute to soil erosion and pollution. Strengthening law enforcement and implementing more robust environmental standards are necessary steps to mitigate the environmental damage caused by mining activities. The urgency to address these challenges is underscored by the irreversible consequences they pose to the Bajau people’s future and the fragile marine ecosystems they depend on. As the demand for nickel continues to rise, finding a balance between economic development and environmental preservation becomes crucial.