MAC: Mines and Communities

Papuan tribal chief to sue mining giant Freeport

Published by MAC on 2008-09-02
Source: ASAP (Action in Solidarity with Asia and the Pacif (2008-08-14)

Papuan tribal chief to sue mining giant Freeport

Action in Solidarity with Asia and the Pacific (ASAP) Report, August 2008

A tribal chief in Indonesian occupied West Papua launched a legal campaign on August 11 to get compensation from the US mining giant Freeport for environmental damage to his homelands.

Fabianus P., chief of the Kapiraya tribe, said tailings from Freeport's huge gold and copper mine in Indonesia's easternmost Papua province were causing more widespread ecological damage than was known, the PNG Post Courier cited the Indonesian Antara news agency in an August 13 report.

"He said several rivers in his tribe's Kaimana district had been polluted, killing wildlife and poisoning water sources for local people. Mine waste was also fouling parts of the Etna Gulf coastline.

"The local village communities were now facing water shortages as their rivers were contaminated by the chemical pollutants from the company," the Antara report said.

Fabianus said he had hired lawyers to file a law suit against PT Freeport Indonesia over the alleged environmental damage.

The Jakarta Post reported that Fabianus, chief of the Extended Kapiraya Tribe, "told the press on Monday, so far, Indonesia and the world only knew that the company's tailings had polluted the Aijkwa River in Kaimana district causing a degradation in the local ecosystem, especially the region's forests".

"But in reality, he said, the US gold and copper mining company had also polluted rivers in Kapiraya Mimika Barat Jauh and Mimika Tengah sub districts, including rivers in Teluk Etna and Poturawae sub districts.

"The company's tailing pollutants were piling up on the coast of Teluk Etna (Etna Gulf) and Poturawae, and the forest ecosystem in southern Papua was also affected by the pollution.

"The local village communities were now facing water shortages as their rivers were contaminated by the chemical pollutants from the company, he said.

"Endemic crocodiles and tortoises of Teluk Etna are currently on the brink of extinction due to pollution.

"Fabianus urged five cabinet ministers, namely ministers for health, the environment and forestry, marine and fisheries and the energy and mineral resources minister to take the company to account.

"He also asked the government to demand that PT Freeport Indonesia provide CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) funds to the indigenous people of Mimika Barat Tengah and Mimika Barat Jauh in Mimika District, as well as those in Teluk Etna and Putorowae in Kaimana District.

"PT Freeport has so far provided funds only to the Kamoro-Amungme tribes in Mimika District.

According to the August 13 report in the PNG Post Courier, Freeport Indonesia is 81 per cent owned by US-based Freeport McMoRan. The remaining stakes are shared equally between the Indonesian government and Indocopper Investama.

Freeport Indonesia is believed to be one of Indonesia's most significant taxpayers and paid the government $US1.8 billion ($A2.03 billion) last year.

Critics accuse Freeport of not giving enough to the people of Papua in return for the mine. They also allege that the military's protection of the site leads to human rights abuses.

Freeport operates concessions totalling 3.6 million hectares stretching from the coast to the central mountain range at Timika, with its copper reserves estimated at 2.6 billion tonnes.

Source: PNG Post Courier, Jakarta Post, 13 August 2008

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