A lesson from mining that went bad


p2062halduellOKBefore leaving Alice I was told to enjoy Java. How not to?
I was picked up this morning from my hotel under the Surabaya airport’s flight path and taken to the mud flats at nearby Lapindo. There’s a lesson in those flats for prospective miners who do not take sufficient care. It seems a company was drilling for gas and managed to puncture one of our planet’s membranes.
The result is a tragedy. Mud 20 meters thick has covered a few villages and all the land associated with them. My guide said thousands of homes, including his own, along with factories and farm land, schools and cemeteries.
And the mud is still coming. A berm thirty meters high is keeping the mud from spilling any further inland, but learning where it’s being directed to was beyond my sign-language skills. Into the nearby ocean, I expect.
But humans being what they are, already a small fleet of motor bikes is on hand to escort tourists around the edge of the waste land, including a short trip out onto the surface, and to sell CD’s in a variety of languages.
Then it was a short ride back to the train station for my on-ticket. Having a couple hours to fill, and wanting to confirm hotel reservation, I just hopped into a waiting rickshaw and was pedalled around a long corner to the nearest Wi-Fi hotspot at the local McDonalds.
Anyone thinking obesity is unique to the developed world need only visit the imported fast-food outlets anywhere else when the children from the more privileged schools break for lunch. Is there any longer a need to wonder where all the obesity is coming from?
Booking confirmed and with a train to catch I left the familiar surrounds of a McDonalds. But any thoughts that I was close to home got knocked on the head when I stepped back onto the street and heard a time-challenged rooster on the fence over my shoulder. Add the loudspeakers from one of the many, many mosques calling the faithful to mid-day prayer, and I knew I was indeed in Java.


  1. There are three explanations as to what triggered the mud volcano, with reasons still being debated, with three main theories:
    (a) Hydro-fracturing of the formation (possible drilling problem);
    (b) Fault reactivation (a natural event);
    (c) Geothermal process (a mostly natural change due geothermal heating);
    Interest and the debate continues, thus contributing to their local economy 🙂

  2. What I failed to do in my original post was give an idea of the vastness of the mud sea. Standing on the eastern side’s 30 meter high berm, I could not see to the other side. However, on the far horizon a spume of steam could be seen against the sky. This marked where the mud was still erupting.
    In a later conversation I was told a similar event had occurred in Venezuela, and that one lasted for 30 years. I don’t know if that is true or not.

  3. Sounds like a wonderful tourist attraction. Let’s hope Central Petroleum deliver us a local version of a mud sea.

  4. My wife and I recently paid $25 NZD per head to visit geothermal ponds, including mud ponds, in New Zealand. This may turn out to be a great source of tourism income.


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