MAC: Mines and Communities

quot;Enough is enough!" - cries from West Papua and Nigeria

Published by MAC on 2006-03-05

"Enough is enough!" - cries from West Papua and Nigeria

5th March 2006

Ten years ago, Rio Tinto financed Freeport McMoran's huge expansion of Grasberg, making it the world's largest single mine. The Indonesian regime (under Suharto) was jubilant. Community calls to close down the operation altogether were muted.

Since then, military oppression in West Papua has increased by leaps and bounds; there have been revelations of massive bribes paid by Freeort-Rio Tinto to the perpetrators; and several environmental disasters affecting the mine itself.

Within the past few months, such allegations have not gone away. On the contrary, they have increased - notably with the publication by the New York Times of major critical articles late last year (and reproduced on this site).

Last week, West Papuans demonstrated both on their own territory, and in the Indonesian capital Jakarta, crying "enough is enough". They demanded the closure of the mine once and for all. The immediate trigger was the shooting by the company's "security" (Indonesia military) of small-scale miners in the concession area. But - as reflected in one of the statements issued - the grievances stretch back nearly forty years. (Importantly, too, the condemnatory statement links Freeport and Rio Tinto inextricably together: a reality which almost all the international press continues to ignore).

Coincidentally, at the same time, a Federal Nigerian court ruled that Royal Dutch Shell must pay out US$1.5 billion to farmers who have suffered grievously from oil spills onto their land. Ijaw communities have threatened to force the company to halt its operations, unless the compensation is promptly paid.

Facile comparisons between demands made in West Papua and those in the Niger delta should be resisted. However, what they undoubtedly have in common is a widespread peoples' perception that past "negotiations" to mitigate damage, have utterly failed.

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