MAC/20: Mines and Communities

Masters Mind

Published by MAC on 2005-11-29


Masters Mind

29th November 2005

The Indonesian government is preparing to despatch many more troops to West Papua (just when the British government has promised to send more arms to Indonesia). This closely follows the publication of a report for the Dutch government which has confirmed that the 1969 Act of "Free Choice" - by which the UN consigned the territory to Indonesia - was as fraudulent as most West Papuans have claimed it to be for more than 35 years.

What is often ignored in commentaries on the re-colonisation of West Papua is the role played by the US government, and Henry Kissinger in particular, in backing Indonesia's invasion of West Papua in order to secure the territory for mining company Freeport McMoran (for which Kissinger was acting at the time).

In 1995, UK-based Rio Tinto joined Freeport, to provide funds necessary to expand the Grasberg mine into the world's largest single producer of gold, and third most important in copper. The two companies also financed the Indonesian military, to the tune of millions of dollars to "protect" their operations- in the process of which the army committed numerous human rights abuses against Papuan citizens.

But once again, the full story is rarely told: even the mention of Rio Tinto's crucial connivance with Freeport is customarily left out of newspaper reports (as in the Guardian article reproduced below) .

Few, if any, mining companies have reaped bigger profits from a single mine in recent years than Freeport and Rio Tinto at Grasberg It is now surely incontrovertible that they did so in flagrant violation of international law, let alone the rights of the West Papuan people (as, for example, under ILO Convention 169).

If justice means anything, the companies should withdraw immediately from the territory, offering recompense for the wealth they have mis-appropriated and the damage they have done. If calculated according to accepted norms in the companies' countries of incorporation, such compensation could bring Freeport - if not Rio Tinto - to its knees.

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