MAC: Mines and Communities

Minister: Freeport to improve tailings management or face legal action

Published by MAC on 2003-06-11

Minister: Freeport to improve tailings management or face legal action

June 11, 2003

Indonesia's Ministry of Environment has called on PT Freeport Indonesia (FI), the operator of the giant Grasberg copper-gold mine in West Papua province, to completely improve the system of its tailing disposal by the year 2004 or face legal proceedings.

The ministry urged the management of FI to immediately solve the current problem of tailing disposal. If the environmental problem continues to emerge, the ministry will bring the case to court.

Freeport Indonesia has two options to improve the management of its tailings. Firstly, to install a pipeline to the sea and use the controversial submarine tailings disposal system, or secondly, to improve the condition of its current tailings disposal area. The company has said it prefers the latter because of lower cost and risk.

Environment Minister, Nabiel Makarim said that the construction of a tailings disposal pipeline into the sea would be very costly. The cost will be as much as US$3 billion since the pipeline has to reach a depth of 80 meters into the sea. Whatever the option, the disposal of tailings has to meet an environmental standard on waste disposal as ruled by the environment ministry.

"The environment ministry would ponder on the environmental viability of Freeport's management of tailings. The rate of disposal should be tolerable and the company has to meet an environmental standard of waste disposal," he reminded.

He warned that all activities of oil/gas and mineral extractive industries in Indonesia have to be in compliance with the environmental rules and regulations in the country.

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