MAC/20: Mines and Communities

Freeport-Rio Tinto Exposed!

Published by MAC on 2003-10-31

Freeport-Rio Tinto Exposed!

31 October 2003

Jakarta - A coalition of West Papuan and Indonesian groups, including WALHI-Friends of the Earth Indonesia, held a series of events to expose the destruction caused by the US-based Freeport and UK/Australia-based Rio Tinto, two giant companies who are owners of the notorious Grasberg mine in West Papua.

The years of opposition were rekindled when a disastrous landslide occurred at the mine site on Thursday morning, October 9, 2003, claiming eight workers' lives and severely injuring five others.

"This event proves Freeport is not competent to handle the current high level of mining production. The government must immediately enforce a reduction in Freeport's production capacity," said Longgena Ginting, National Director of Friends of the Earth Indonesia (WALHI) in an October 10, 2003, press release.

The following week, WALHI joined the coalition, Solidarity Action to Challenge Freeport-Rio Tinto, to hold a series of events to further expose the two companies. The coalition held a press conference at WALHI's Jakarta office on October 22, 2003 to coincide with the visit of George W Bush to Bali in which he was scheduled to meet with Indonesian President Megawati to discuss among other things, the investigation into the deaths of two Americans killed in a shooting near the Grasberg mine site last year.

The coalition used Bush's investigation call as a platform to demand an in-depth investigation into the crimes and thousands of victims at the Freeport-Rio Tinto mine. Titled "George W Bush demands justice for two American victims - Papuan people demand justice for THOUSANDS of victims of Freeport-Rio Tinto!" the press conference drew a lot of media attention.

The coalition put the spotlight not only on the latest landslide disaster, but also on Freeport-Rio Tinto's unsafe production levels, the tens of millions of dollars it has paid to the notorious Indonesian military, and the history of human rights abuses of the local indigenous peoples.

Also, the coalition demanded that the Government of Indonesia renegotiate the Contract of Work with the two giants.

"The Contract of Work renegotiation has to take place with the following conditions; (1) assign an independently chosen team to complete an environmental audit and a full investigation into human rights abuses, (2) Freeport-Rio Tinto must halt all payments to the military in West Papua and reveal all details regarding past payments, both official and unofficial, and (3) there must be a national dialogue between the Government of Indonesia and the West Papuan community to address human rights abuses," stated Hans Gebze from the West Papua Students Alliance.

These points were further explored in a public discussion held two days later on October 24, 2003 in Gedung Joang '45, Jakarta. Themed "Cutting Open Freeport-Rio Tinto", the discussion was moderated by Nur Hidayati from WALHI-FoE Indonesia with speakers such as Chalid Muhammad from the Indonesian Mining Advocacy Network (JATAM), Hans Gebze from the West Papua Students Alliance, Yusuf Lakaseng from Aceh-Papua Solidarity, and Emmy Sahertian from National Solidarity for Papua.

To top it all, on October 28, 2003, hundreds of West Papuan youth from the West Papua Students Alliance brought these conditions right to Freeport's door in Kuningan, Jakarta. Banners and posters colored the action and it gained media interest.

In 1997, the Indonesian government approved a request from Freeport to raise ITS production capacity to 300,000 tons of ore per day. The increase in production capacity was funded in large part by Rio Tinto Ltd, in return for a share of the increased mine profits. Even at the lower production level, Freeport's operations had resulted in huge environmental impacts. Destruction caused by the Freeport mining operation covers a vast area from the 4,000 meter high mountaintop all the way down to the coast and the Arafura Sea to Australia's north.

Freeport Mining Indonesia always claims that various disasters which have occurred in its area of operations are the tragic result of natural events, such as the landslide of waste rocks at Lake Wanagon in 2000, which killed 4 of Freeport's subcontract workers. In fact, Freeport is well aware of the risk of its operation in an area with high rainfall and seismic activity, nevertheless this has not prevented the company from raising production capacity in the scramble for maximum profits.

In year 2000, WALHI-FoE Indonesia filed a lawsuit against Freeport for not giving correct and accurate information about the incident in Lake Wanagon which had caused 4 casualties. The first-tier court found Freeport guilty as charged. The case is now on the National Supreme Court.

Contact: Jl. Tegal Parang Utara 14, Jakarta 12790, Indonesia
( Tel: 021-79193363, Fax: 021-7941673, Email:info@walhi.or.id )

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