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Kartini Sandra Tilukay in a heavy equipment vehicle at the Wetar Copper Mine. [PHOTO: Dino Musida/BKP-BTR]

Can’t Ride a Motorcycle? That’s Not a Requirement to be an Operator

The Mining Apprentice Program has successfully graduated female heavy equipment operators in Wetar. Some can neither ride a motorcycle nor a car but now operate a 60-tons truck.

Working in the mines is hard, so only men can endure it. This kind of assumption is still shared by many people in general. “That opinion is wrong, the proof is that Kartini is here,” said Kartini Sandra Tilukay, an employee of Batutua Kharisma Permai and Batutua Tembaga Raya (BKP-BTR). And, the daily task of this lady from Kisar Island is not behind the desk, but operating heavy vehicles. “It feels really cool, even though the body is smaller than heavy equipment tires, I can still operate it,” said Kartini, full of enthusiasm.

Kartini is one of fifteen women operators of heavy vehicles at the BKP-BTR copper mining site on Wetar Island, Southwest Maluku. They are graduates of the Mining Apprentice Program—training to operate equipment specifically for female participants.

Dicky Murod, Senior Manager of External Affairs of BKP-BTR, revealed that the training that Kartini and other participants participated in was a form of BKP-BTR’s support for gender equality. By providing skills to operate heavy equipment to women, job opportunities in the mining world are opened for professions that were previously filled with male workers. In addition, training was also held to fill the needs of heavy equipment operators at BKP-BTR. After they graduate, the responsibilities of female operators are no different than those of male operators.

The training has started rolling since July 2021 and takes place in several batches or waves. Initially, the participants came from Lurang and Uhak, the two closest villages to the BKP-BTR location. Furthermore, participants came from other villages on Wetar Island and other islands in Southwest Maluku Regency such as Kisar Island.

Each batch lasts for 50 to 60 days, guided by a team of professional coaches. The training is carried out at an actual mining site. Kartini and her friends were trained to operate the 733 haul truck which has a payload capacity of 60 tons and the 745 articulate dump truck with a carrying capacity of 45 tons.

Kartini admitted that she was amazed by her current abilities. Until now, he could not ride a motorcycle but instead could carry a big truck in the mines. “I used to only see mining units on television,” said Kartini, a Bachelor of Computer Science from STIKOM Ambon.

With orange vests, the female operators are ready to enter the mining area. [PHOTO: Dino Musida/BKP-BTR]
Kartini’s colleague, Kaindah Feum Ahab also felt a leap in her life after becoming a heavy vehicle operator. She, who previously worked at the Lurang Health Center, admitted that she had the same impression as Kartini. “I feel cool when there are people who don’t believe I work in a mining field,” said Kaindah, followed by bursts of laughter.

Kaindah feels the future path of her life is open. According to him, the skill and experience of operating a heavy vehicle are extraordinary assets. “When I finish from here, I can work in mining in other places, I will be rich in experience by looking at other areas in Indonesia,” he said.

Kaindah said that the doctor, Gian Alodia Risamasu, who was his supervisor at the Lurang Health Center, was a person who had contributed to him. “Doctor Gian encouraged me to join the training here, he said so that I could have insight and experience that was much broader than the size of my village,” said Kaindah.

Novita Leladara also had a similar experience. This mother of one child is from Ilputih Village in Wetar. “Working in the mine is fun, I enjoy it,” said Novita, whose husband also works at BKP-BTR.

How about salary? “Good,” the three of them said in unison with a smile. Kaindah admits that her income as an operator doubles from the administrative staff at the Puskesmas.

Head coach Phillips Benny stated that there are many advantages when heavy vehicles are operated by women. “Women are consistent and stable, different from men who have a sense of humor,” he said. For example, if a female operator gets a task of ten trips, the female operator can fulfill it at the right time with the same time interval between trips, while the male operator does not keep the speed so that sometimes it is slow and does not reach the target.

In addition, added Benny, the level of damage to heavy vehicles has decreased. “Because the way women treat and control it is different,” said Benny. The female operator did not encounter any difficulties operating the truck because the method was similar to running an automatic car. “The important thing applied to the operator is discipline and compliance before, during, and after operating,” said Benny.

As told by Kartini: before starting work, she is obliged to make sure all parts of the vehicle are in good condition, while operating always obey the supervisor who gives directions and is full of caution, and after being assigned to make sure the vehicle is in good condition.

After Kartini, Kaindah, and Novita, there will be more female operators at BKP-BTR because training activities are still ongoing. They will be on duty day and night according to a predetermined schedule.

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