“Dairi is fertile land. Just throw seeds and they’ll grow. We have abundant sources of water and food, and lots of productive crops. So, please, do not mine here. What will we eat if all this is destroyed?” stated Dormaida Sihotang, a village local and farmer.

This past June [2023], the women of the Dairi district and Indonesian region went to Jakarta to plead with authorities on the termination of the DPM mining project, arguing that ecological threats would one day wipe out the whole community. A month later, on July 24, the court sided with the women, calling for a revocation of the granted environmental permit to authorize the commencement of the DPM project—a monumental win for those in the Dairi region.

Dairi Prima Mineral (DPM) is a Dairi Sopokomil village-based mining company, given permission in 1998 to start a mining project, projected to surface both zinc and lead. This project was to break ground in the highland ridges of the Barisan mountain range. Many surveys found that the ranges are compacted of lead, silver, zinc sulfide, and solid zinc ores. Some even estimate that this region has 5% of the world's zinc reserves—an element that the construction, automotive, electronic, and many other industrial industries rely on for production.

Majority owned by China Nonferrous Metal Industry’s Foreign Engineering and Construction Co. Ltd., with Indonesia’s Bumi Resources owning only the remaining 49%, the DPM has received international scrutiny over the years, many stating that the mines would threaten the surrounding environment. Local Dairi farmers have rejected and opposed the DPM project since the early 2000s, arguing threats to the community, resources and ecosystems would be their downfall; along with overall humanitarian disaster from the mine’s waste storage. Recent statistics showed that 42.9% of the region's income was from local agriculture, from the rice fields to the fruit trees.  

International scrutiny came at the stability of the mine tailing dams, a structure that if to fail, would send an avalanche of mining waste towards the village, enveloping everything within its path. This catastrophe would also cause investors to pull out and funds to be revoked, as production would be halted, liabilities and casualties would increase, and ecological clean up would be a heavy responsibility—many of which investors do not want to be tied to. The Postal Savings Bank of China (PSBC), a major investor for the DPM project, was found to no longer be funding the project as a published review by the World Bank’s Compliance Advisor Ombudsman exposed the shortcomings of the tailings dam design. This is not permanently stated as the reason why the PSBC pulled out, but the review stated they will be conducting a more detailed investigation.

The final decisions made by the court may also not be the final decision on the status of the DPM project. The environment ministry can appeal this decision at a higher court, ultimately leaving the project open for reinstatement. The women of Dairi have stated that they will not stop fighting against the zinc and lead mine, pushing for environmental justice.

“We are farmers, we eat from the farm, we live from farming. From the land, not from lead,” stated Dormaida.