MAC: Mines and Communities

Australian mining company accused of assisting Papua human rights abuses

Published by MAC on 2012-01-10
Source: New York Times, Jakarta Globe (2011-12-22)

An Australian mining company, Paniai Gold,  has been accused of providing support for military operations against alleged "rebels" in the Indonesian-ruled territory of Papua which have resulted in human rights abuses.

Meanwhile, a helicopter carrying workers at Freeport-Rio Tinto's Grasberg mine has been attacked by unidentified gunmen.

Editorial comment: Although the claims made against Paniai Gold must be regarded seriously, both Freeport and Rio Tinto have also been guilty of "allowing" air transport to be used by Indonesian security forces as they committed alleged human rights abuses in Papua and East Kalimantan respectively.

ESPAÑOL

Gunmen Attack Helicopter Carrying Mine Workers in Indonesia

By Sara Schonhardt

New York Times

18 December 2011

JAKARTA, Indonesia - Gunmen fired at a helicopter carrying workers for the mining giant Freeport-McMoRan shortly after it took off Saturday from a town near the company's huge gold and copper mine in eastern Indonesia, a police spokesman, Colonel Wachyono, said.

One person, the wife of a Freeport employee, was injured by shrapnel, the police said, and the helicopter was able to land safely in a town 55 miles away.

A motive for the attack was not known, the police said, and the gunmen remained unidentified.

Colonel Wachyono said six shots were fired at the helicopter, which carried 29 workers and family members, with one shot penetrating a window and the rest striking the rotors.

Freeport, which is based in Phoenix, has been struggling to deal with a prolonged strike by some workers and sabotage, which have crippled production at its Grasberg mine in eastern Indonesia.

In addition, a separatist movement, which has simmered for decades in the region, has added to tensions around the mine.

In the past year, nine people have been killed in ambushes on roads around Freeport's Grasberg property in Papua Province.

The company reached an agreement with union workers on Thursday to end the three-month strike, but as of Saturday miners had not returned to work, and the company said last-minute details were being worked out.

Company officials had hoped that Thursday's agreement would end its troubles and potentially stem violence that has escalated since July 2009, when an Australian employee was killed during an ambush.

Freeport began production at the Grasberg mine in 1971. It employs around 23,000 miners and senior staff members.

Workers, including some local employees who are paid about $2 an hour, have said they deserve a larger share of profits, which have soared as prices for metals have risen in recent years.

The company has also come under scrutiny after admitting to paying military and police officers to oversee security operations, despite accusations that the Indonesian military has been linked to human rights abuses against local Papuans.


Australian-Owned Miner Involved in Papua Military Operations: Report

Jakarta Globe

22 December 2011

The Australian government has confirmed that it is investigating reports that an Australian-owned mining company was involved in ongoing Indonesian military operations in Paniai, West Papua.

In a statement received by the Jakarta Globe on Thursday, Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade confirmed it was aware of the reports but said there was no Australian government connection to the operations, which have been condemned as brutal by international nongovernmental organizations.

A ministry spokesperson said any inquiries regarding the involvement of the company - identified as Paniai Gold, a fully owned subsidiary of Melbourne based gold mining company West Wits Mining - should be directed to the company itself.

"We are seeking to speak to the company about the reports," the spokesperson said.

Australia-based activist group West Papua Media, in a statement, alleged the Australian-trained joint police and military counterterrorism unit Detachment 88 (Densus 88) was involved in the allegedly bloody military operations.

The nongovernmental organization said that according to reports from Marisan, the director of the Papua branch of the Institute for Human Rights Study and Advocacy (Elsham), Densus 88 had been embedded with police Mobile Brigade (Brimob) units during operations against suspected members of the West Papua Liberation Army (TPN), based at Eduda, Paniai.

Marisan was quoted by WPM as saying that a total of 30 had died in the latest violence, including 17 people shot dead during the military operations in Eduda.

"Only ten of these victims were members of the TPN," the director was quoted as saying, adding that prior to the military operations, Brimob had also shot dead eight Papuans.

WPM said that Marisan and Yones Douw, a human rights defender based in Paniai, had both alleged that helicopters used by Paniai Gold on its Derewo River Gold project "were utilized by the military and police in these latest military operations."

A local source, requesting anonymity, told West Papua Media that the helicopters were those used by the mining company.

"They are white with blue and red markings" the sources said. "They are defiantly mining company helicopters."

WPM said it had not been able to contact Paniai Gold's operations manger Vincent Savage, a non-executive director of West Wits, for comment.

The NGO said the 2011 November-December military operation was not the first in the area.

"Paniai was the scene of widespread military operations between 1963-1969, 1977-1978, and again in 1981-1982. During this period US supplied Bronco aircraft that were used to bomb villages while helicopters strafed Papuans with machine gun fire."

The Australian foreign ministry reiterated that Australia had long recognized of the territorial integrity of Indonesia, "including by signing and ratifying the Lombok Treaty between both countries."

"Australia does not support independence for the Papuan provinces. The best chance for a secure and prosperous future for the people of Papua and West Papua lies within an integrated Indonesian state."


Australia Involved in Military Operations in Paniai, West Papua

By Alex Rayfield

Exclusive Report from West Papua Media

21 December 2011

Human Rights Defenders in West Papua accuse the Australian Government and an Australian-owned mining company, Paniai Gold, of being involved in ongoing military operations in Paniai, West Papua.

Mr Ferry Marisan alleges that the Australian-trained joint police and military counter-terrorism unit Detachment 88 (also known as Densus 88 or D88), is involved in ongoing military operations in Paniai. According to Marisan, the Director of Elsham Papua, the Institute for the Study and Advocacy of Human Rights in West Papua, D88 have been embedded in the Second "Coconut" (Kelapa Dua) paramilitary Police Force (Brimob) sent from West Java for military operations against suspected members of the West Papua Liberation Army (or TPN), based at Eduda, Paniai.

According to Mr Yones Douw, a human rights defender based in Paniai, D88 are currently being deployed against members of the TPN in a jungle warfare operation. John Yogi - the Paniai based commander of the TPN - and his men, believed to number a few dozen, fled into the jungle following an attack on his base in Eduda by the Indonesian military and police between the 12-15 December.

Marisan says that in total 30 people have died during the latest round of violence in Paniai Seventeen people were shot dead during the military operations in Eduda. Only ten of these victims were members of the TPN, according to Marisan. Between the 9th and 14th of December a further three people died, all from exposure related sickness. Amongst the dead were two children aged two and four. Prior to the military operations Brimob also shot dead eight Papuans. Yogi's men responded by killing two Brimob soldiers, an event that triggered the recent military operations.

In addition Elsham Papua reports that the following six villages were burnt to the ground: Toko, Badawo, Dogouto, Obayoweta, Dey, and Wamanik. As a result of the violence Marisan says that up to 20,000 people have fled their homes. "They are living in government care centres, or staying with family and friends. Many have also fled to the forest" says Marisan.

SBS Radio reported that a spokesperson from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade says that the "Australian Government does not train or fund Indonesia's security forces to counter separatism."

Irrespective of the training that both the Australian and U.S government's say they provide to D88 , both Douw and Marisan claim that group is being used in military operations against so-called separatists. "Many of the victims in these operations" says Marisan, "are not members of the TPN, they are ordinary Papuan villagers who are supposed to be protected by the state". D88 was also allegedly involved in the killing of six Papuans at the conclusion of the Third Papuan Congress on October 19.

D88 is not the only link between Australia and the recent wave of violence.

According to both Douw and Marisan, helicopters used at the Derewo River Gold (DRG) project were utilised by the Military and Police in these latest military operations. DRG is operated by Paniai Gold, a fully owned subsidiary of Melbourne based gold mining company West Wits Mining. A local source, requesting anonymity, told West Papua Media that the helicopters are those used by the mining company. "They are white with blue and red markings" the sources said. "They are defiantly mining company helicopters."

The person responsible for Paniai Gold's operations is Mr Vincent Savage, a Non-Executive Director of West Wits. According to publicly available company documents "Mr Savage has been intimately involved in all governmental and regulatory issues involving the Derewo River Gold Project as well as working closely with the Company's local Indonesian partners."

These same documents state that "security [for the DRG Project] will be provided by the local Paniai police and Brimob (Indonesian paramilitary police) under the supervision of a Company Security Officer".

West Papua Media attempted to contact Mr Savage for comment, but he was not available.
The 2011 November-December military operations are not the first military operations in the area. Paniai was the scene of widespread military operations between 1963-1969, 1977-1978, and again in 1981-1982. During this period U.S. supplied Bronco aircraft were used to bomb villages while helicopters strafed Papuans with machine gun fire.

"People don't forget these things easily" says Douw.

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