MAC: Mines and Communities

What's Wrong with Freeport's Security Policy?

Published by MAC on 2002-10-21

What's Wrong with Freeport's Security Policy?

Summary Report: Results of Investigation into the Attack on Freeport Employees in Timika, Papua, Finds Corporation Allows Impunity of Criminal Acts by Indonesian Armed Forces by ELSHAM

October 21, 2002

I. Introduction: Brief Historical Context of Papua, Indonesia and Freeport

Situated on the western half of New Guinea, the world's second-largest island, Papua (formerly known as Irian Jaya) has been occupied by a series of foreign powers for much of the past few centuries, including Dutch colonial administration, Japanese military occupation during World War II, liberation by General MacArthur's American troops, and Indonesian military and civil authority today.

Papua's current status as Indonesia's 26th province has its origins in a United Nations-sponsored process, initiated with strong backing from the United States' Kennedy Administration in the early 1960s, through which the territory was transferred from Dutch colonial administration to Indonesian control. Indigenous Papuans were excluded from the negotiations, which culminated in the 1962 New York Agreement, a bi-lateral agreement between the Netherlands and Indonesia. They were shut out once again seven years later when Indonesia conducted the 1969 Act of Free Choice (AFC), held to satisfy the New York Agreement's requirement of a formal "act of self-determination." Controversial amongst diplomats and other observers, international legal scholars and Papuans themselves, the AFC prompted protests from the U.N.'s chief observer and delegates to the U.N. General Assembly, who cited an atmosphere of repression in which the Indonesian government violated Papuans' rights of free speech, movement, and assembly, and continuously exercised "tight political control over the population."[1]

Papua, together with the independent nation state of Papua New Guinea on the island's eastern half, is the planet's most culturally and biologically diverse place. The island is home to 1,000 different language groups (one-fourth of the world's total), with 250 of these located within Papua's borders. Since its integration into Indonesia, Papua's cultural make-up has shifted significantly. Papua's indigenous population of 1.5 million people now shares the territory with 1 million Indonesian migrants. Indigenous Papuans are predominantly Christian and racially Melanesian, while the new arrivals are predominantly Muslim and of Asian descent. Hundreds of thousands of the migrants have been sponsored by the Indonesian government's discredited transmigration program,[2] others are spontaneous migrants such as traders from the Indonesian island of Sulawesi.

Papua, which is the size of California, also has the largest contiguous expanse of tropical rainforest outside of the Amazon and has the largest number of endemic species anywhere on earth. Its snow-capped mountain chain - rising to heights of 16,000 feet above sea level, the highest between the Himalayas and the Andes - is rich in deposits of gold and copper, and reserves of natural gas and oil elsewhere within the territory are under exploitation by transnational corporations, including BP Amoco.

Taking advantage of Papua's rich mineral resources, New Orleans-based corporation Freeport McMoRan is the majority owner and operator of the world's largest gold and copper mining operation, located in the southwestern region of Papua. Years before Papua came under official Indonesian sovereignty, Freeport began contractual negotiations with the Indonesian government to exploit the Papuan mineral deposits, signing a deal in 1967.

In the high-stakes context of Cold War politics and multi-billion dollar contracts, the 1969 Act of Free Choice predictably confirmed Papua's status as a territory of Indonesia and the right of Papuans to self-determination was sacrificed for the sake of realpolitik. During the past four decades of Indonesian "integration," indigenous Papuans have experienced all forms of mistreatment, human rights abuses, environmental destruction and political oppression.[3]

Nowhere is this more apparent than in the area of Timika, the mining town created by Freeport. Since 1967, two years before Papua officially became part of Indonesia, Freeport, in coalition with the Indonesian government, has acquired approximately 2.6 million hectares of land traditionally owned by local tribes without consideration of the locals' rights, the social, economic, political, and cultural consequences, or paying adequate compensation. In addition to these problems, Freeport's operations have caused extensive environmental destruction to the area's fragile alpine and tropical rainforest ecosystems.

Since the mid-1990s, Freeport's Papua mining operation has dumped an average of 200,000 tons of "tailings" (mining waste) into local rivers every day. This practice, condemned by fellow mining giant, BHP, and the World Bank, and illegal in most countries, has destroyed and contaminated local food sources resulting in sickness, poisoning, starvation and death amongst the local indigenous population. Freeport now claims that its destruction of coastal rainforest is part of the plan and has designated a 100 kilometer "sacrifice zone."[4]

In 1995, reacting to the danger Freeport's mining operation has inflicted on the environment and human health, the U.S. Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) revoked Freeport's $100 million political risk insurance, concluding that the mine had "created and continues to pose unreasonable or major environmental, health or safety hazards with respect to the rivers that are being impacted by the tailings, the surrounding terrestrial ecosystem, and the local inhabitants."[5]

Equally distressing are the crimes against humanity being perpetrated by the Indonesian military (Tentara Nasional Indonesia or TNI) and government since Papua's integration into Indonesia, with estimates that more than 100,000 Papuans (almost 10 percent of the indigenous population) have been killed or have gone 'missing' as a result of extrajudicial killings and forced disappearances, while several times that number have experienced torture, rape and intimidation at the hands of the Indonesian armed forces. In this atmosphere of repression, the Indonesian security forces (TNI and Police) have provided protection for Freeport's mine since the beginning of operations there.

Investigations by Indonesia's National Commission of Human Rights (Komnas HAM) and church groups have documented severe human rights violations in and around the Freeport mining area perpetrated by the military. In 1995, Komnas HAM publicly stated that these human rights abuses "are directly connected to [the Indonesian army].acting as protection for the mining business of PT Freeport Indonesia."[6] The Catholic Church reports that torture and sexual harassment were conducted in Freeport shipping containers, the Army Commander's Mess area, the police station and at Freeport Security Posts. Despite these well-documented reports, Freeport management continues to employ the services of the Indonesian armed forces and to fund the military's presence in Papua.

Indeed, the Indonesian military has a documented history of orchestrating past incidents of destabilizing violence in the area of Freeport's mining operations. For example, in 1994, armed forces battalions 752 and 733, posing as Kelly Kwalik's TPN/OPM[7] unit, shot and killed a Freeport employee on the road near Mile 62. An Australian employee was shot and wounded in the same incident. In March 1996, the military orchestrated a "riot" that caused the closure of the mining operation for three days. This led to an exponential increase in the number of troops based in the area.[8]

The shooting by unidentified gunmen on August 31, 2002, at mile 62-63 along the road from Timika to the Freeport mining enclave of Tembagapura, in which two American citizens and one Indonesian citizen were killed and 12 others were injured is a demonstration of the strength of militarism and impunity in Indonesia and calls into question relations between Freeport McMoRan, PT Freeport Indonesia (Freeport's Indonesian subsidiary) and the military.

The August 31 attack is reminiscent of previous military assaults on Freeport employees and the military's other destructive acts directed at the company and highlights the serious and persistent problems with Freeport's security policy, and Freeport corporate management's failure to hold accountable perpetrators of these criminal acts.

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