“That mountain there is one of the largest gold finds in the world today,” says the miner, motioning to the massive rock we’ve been surfing in front of all afternoon. He points to the next peak west. “They reckon that mountain over there has even more.”
We’re standing on the beach with our boards, watching the sun sink behind the misty islands that guard the bay at Pulau Merah. We came here chasing rumour of a fun river mouth A-frame with no other surfers around for miles. What we’ve encountered is an Indonesian gold rush happening a few bays west of G-Land. Mountains of gold in the middle of the jungle, and an international mining exploration company looking to cash in…
Pulau Merah, which means “Red Island” in English, is a small village of about 3,000 people located in the Banyuwangi regency of East Java, Indonesia, about 40 kilometres as the crow flies from the reef at G-Land. Pulau Merah is named after a towering rock that looks like it dropped from the sky and landed in front of this picturesque white-sand beach. Today the island is covered in thick vegetation, but there are pockets revealing the deep crimson rock below, the telltale sign of oxidized copper and gold.
Unlike its neighbour at G-Land, the wave at Pulau Merah isn’t world class, but it’s still damn fun. For the past two days, Bali boys Garut Widiarta and Raditya Rondi have been going to town on the peaky sandbars, flying and flaring without an audience. It’s a welcome break from the crowds and surf schools of their home break at Kuta Beach.
We’re staying at a simple surfer home stay recently built by an Aussie expat and his local partner in front of the beach at Pulau Merah. Every morning at 7 the mining company’s helicopter roars to life next door. We eat breakfast and watch the chopper run supplies and equipment to the base camp up on the mountain where the drilling takes place. Intrepid Mines, the Australian company doing exploratory drilling into the mountain since 2007, is investing millions of dollars a year to explore and map out the earth below Pulau Merah. Their research shows gold and copper deposits worth hundreds of millions. So far the company’s operations have been limited to exploratory drilling, but if they get a permit to start a full-scale production mine, this quiet corner of paradise could see some drastic changes.
Read the full story, here.
Source: Australia’s Surfing Life | Words: Jake Hoyt | Photos: Mick Curley