On May 29, in the bottom of a tin-mining pit on Bangka Island in Indonesia, a wall about 16 feet high collapsed, sending a wave of earth crashing down on a 40-year-old father of two. His name was Rosnan. The dirt crushed his legs, sent something sharp slicing through his right thigh, and buried him from the waist down. His partner, panicked but unhurt, scrambled out of the pit screaming for help. About 20 other miners rushed in to dig Rosnan out with their bare hands.
“He kept repeating, ‘Please, please help me,’ ” recalls Rosnan’s son, Dian Chandra, 20, who rode in the back of a car with his father to a nearby hospital. Rosnan lost too much blood. “I couldn’t find a pulse,” says Dr. Mario, the emergency room physician on duty. Dr. Mario declared Rosnan dead at about 3 p.m. (Like many Indonesians, including Dr. Mario, Rosnan had one name.) Back at the mine, someone stuck a withered sapling into the soft bottom of the pit near the spot where Rosnan fell—a far too frequent sight in the mines of Bangka, where Rosnan was the first of six to die on the job during a single week this spring. The other victims didn’t make it to the hospital. All, including a 15-year-old boy, were buried alive.
Photograph by Kemal Jufri for Bloomberg BusinessweekMiners on Bangka Island, near the pit where Rosnan was killed when the wall collapsed
Three days after Rosnan’s death, and following Friday prayers at the local mosque, his family and friends gathered to mourn him at his brother’s cinder-block home. They sat on the bare floor, sharing a meal of rice, noodles, and fish stew. Rosnan’s 57-year-old brother, Rani, recalls that Rosnan had few options outside the pit. “We have to live,” he says. “We need money.”