MAC: Mines and Communities

Troops to Stay at Freeport's Papua Mine

Published by MAC on 2004-03-04

Troops to Stay at Freeport's Papua Mine

Far Eastern Economic Review

Issue cover-dated March 04, 2004

The Indonesian armed forces have quietly dropped a plan to pull a 550-strong task force out of a giant United States-operated copper-and-gold mine in Papua province. The turn-around came at the urging of army chief of staff Gen. Ryamizard Ryacudu and underscores his difficult relationship with armed-forces commander Gen. Endriartono Sutarto, according to sources close to the military. Sutarto announced in November that he was seeking government approval for the troop withdrawal, apparently because he no longer wanted the army to be perceived as a mercenary force in the pay of foreign companies--even if mining contracts give the military the right to protect national assets.

Louisiana-based Freeport McMoRan provides the military with about $6 million a year to protect its high-altitude Grasberg mine, but the company insists that about 80% of that goes toward food, medical and other welfare expenses.

Meanwhile, Freeport has re-hired former chief mine-safety officer John Kaylor to advise on stabilizing the Grasberg pit following landslides in October and December that have disrupted operations. Kaylor's job was terminated about two years ago as part of a localization programme and he had been working for the U.S. Interior Department in Washington. The landslides were the first Freeport had experienced in 15 years of mining at Grasberg. Kaylor was well known at Freeport for his no-nonsense approach to safety issues.

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