MAC/20: Mines and Communities

"Enough is enough!" - cries from West Papua and Nigeria

Published by MAC on 2006-03-05


"Enough is enough!" - cries from West Papua and Nigeria

5th March 2006

Ten years ago, Rio Tinto financed Freeport McMoran's huge expansion of Grasberg, making it the world's largest single mine. The Indonesian regime (under Suharto) was jubilant. Community calls to close down the operation altogether were muted.

Since then, military oppression in West Papua has increased by leaps and bounds; there have been revelations of massive bribes paid by Freeort-Rio Tinto to the perpetrators; and several environmental disasters affecting the mine itself.

Within the past few months, such allegations have not gone away. On the contrary, they have increased - notably with the publication by the New York Times of major critical articles late last year (and reproduced on this site).

Last week, West Papuans demonstrated both on their own territory, and in the Indonesian capital Jakarta, crying "enough is enough". They demanded the closure of the mine once and for all. The immediate trigger was the shooting by the company's "security" (Indonesia military) of small-scale miners in the concession area. But - as reflected in one of the statements issued - the grievances stretch back nearly forty years. (Importantly, too, the condemnatory statement links Freeport and Rio Tinto inextricably together: a reality which almost all the international press continues to ignore).

Coincidentally, at the same time, a Federal Nigerian court ruled that Royal Dutch Shell must pay out US$1.5 billion to farmers who have suffered grievously from oil spills onto their land. Ijaw communities have threatened to force the company to halt its operations, unless the compensation is promptly paid.

Facile comparisons between demands made in West Papua and those in the Niger delta should be resisted. However, what they undoubtedly have in common is a widespread peoples' perception that past "negotiations" to mitigate damage, have utterly failed.


Thirty nine years of Freeport-Rio Tinto is enough

by United Front for the Struggle of West Papuan People - National Office, Indonesia

27th February 2006

The history of Freeport in West Papua is a dark history of political manipulation, of the false and unjust Act of Free Choice, the theft of Papua's natural resources, destruction of traditional culture, breaches of human rights, environmental destruction and the killing of democratic values - the very definition of colonialism.

Currently it is the US and the EU which dominate social and political relations with the market model otherwise known as neo-liberalism. Because of this, as a multinational corporation (MNC) Freeport has brought with it political, economic and human rights disaster for the Papuan people.

Since 1962, via the New York Agreement, it is clear that the economic and political interests of the West were behind the incorporation of West Papua into Indonesia, with the guarantee that Papua's natural resources - rich in fisheries, forestry, minerals and gas - would be exploited.

Since 1967 PT Freeport Indonesia has been mining at Tembagapura, and for 39 years has been ransacking the rights of Papuans. Since 1977 violations of human rights have been systematically and consciously carried out by the Indonesian military and police with the support of PT Freeport Indonesia. To assist in this process, the Government of Indonesia instituted the DOM - Zone of Military Operations in Papua from 1978 to 1998. While the DOM was officially removed in 1988, reality tells otherwise: troops have increased, new extra-territorial organisations have been opened, and human rights violations have occurred at Abepura, Wasior and Wamena including the case of the assassination of Papuan Independence figure, Theys Hiyo Eluay in 2001 and the case of the Waghete-Paniai murders. These stand as proof that the repressive nature of the military and police has not receded but increased in intensity.

Freeport - Rio Tinto Joint Venture is a company whose name is synonymous with many human rights and environmental violations. Environmental violations have caused the loss of livelihoods of local people through the theft of their lands and pollution. This is what drives local people to scratch through Freeport's waste looking for traces of discarded gold. Even then, they must reckon with Freeport security and state law enforcement apparatus. Freeport is proven to be paying the military and police in order to secure their operations. Freeport's official reports are proof of the millions of dollars paid to the top echelons of both forces.

The conflict between residents, police and company security which took place in Mimika regency on Tuesday 21 Feb 2006 began when security forces including police attempted to evict hundreds of local people which have for the past year been panning for gold in the tailings deposits at Mile 72/74. This eviction caused a conflict which escalated into serious violence between local people, police and Freeport security. Three local people were shot by security forces and taken to the Tembagapura hospital. A police officer and a company security officer were also injured.

Hundreds of local people from surrounding villages blockaded the road at Ridge Camp and halted production at the Freeport - Rio Tinto Joint Venture. Their demands include a direct negotiation with James Moffet, Chairman of the (US) Board of Directors.

Front PEPERA-PB perceives this sequence of events as a consequence of an accumulation of the neglect of the Indonesian State and failure to respond to the voices of Papuans and their demands for mine closure to be followed by an audit and thorough investigation of all human rights abuses, corruption and environmental crimes which have been performed by Freeport - Rio Tinto. We also believe that statements made by the Indonesian State in regards to the situation in Papua have actually worsened the social, political and security situation in Papuan lands.

Therefore, we the Front PEPERA-PB demand:

Immediate closure of the Freeport - Rio Tinto mine followed by an audit and thorough investigation;

Recall all non-organic military and police from Papua;

A Strong denunciation of Vice President Yusuf Kalla's statement calling for an increase in troops to secure the Freeport - Rio Tinto concession area;

Unconditional release of the Papuans detained in connection with the Timika Mile 62-63 case and the demonstration at Freeport's Jakarta offices.

Beginning in March 2006 Front PEPERA-PB will garner solidarity for a General Strike throughout Papua and for people to approach all levels of government including the Governor and Mayor's office. We also call on all Papuan people not to be goaded by the provocation of the Indonesian State security apparatus. The Papuan community must stick together and resolve all issues through a National Dialogue undertaken democratically, honestly and justly, from grassroots through to the National Papuan level.Contact: Arkilaus Baho (+62815 7874 0611) and Marthen Goo (+62813-80207584).

UNITED FRONT FOR THE STRUGGLE OF WEST PAPUAN PEOPLE
National Office - Indonesia
Website: http/www.melanesianews.org/spm
Email: front_pepera@yahoo.com or kp_amp@yahoo.com


Protesters Want Freeport's Indonesia Mine Closed

by PlanetArk, INDONESIA, JAKARTA

1st March 2006

Hundreds of native Papuans are demonstrating to demand the closure of a huge mine in Indonesia's Papua province run by the US company Freeport-McMoran Copper & Gold Inc, police and witnesses said on Tuesday.

In Jakarta, 100 protesters trying to enter a building that houses Freeport offices scuffled with anti-riot police, who eventually used a water cannon to help disperse the crowd.

Protesters also have staged rallies in Papua's provincial capital of Jayapura and in Timika, the nearest town to Freeport's Grasberg mine, Papuan police spokesman Kartono Wangsadisastra said.

"Yesterday, we had 700 protesters in Jayapura. Today, around 200 of them have showed up again to demand the closure of the Freeport mine while around 50 residents have erected tents in Timika to display their grievances," Wangsadisastra said.

"They want other residents to join the rallies and we are guarding them. Everything is under control over here," he said. Antara national news agency reported members of Papuan local councils have promised the protesters a discussion with the Jakarta government on the future of the controversial mine, located in the snow-capped Papuan highlands.

Operations at Freeport's Grasberg mine, believed to have the world's third-largest copper reserves and one of the biggest gold deposits, came to a standstill for four days last week before protesters, mostly illegal miners, left the site near the town of Timika, about 3,400 km (2,100 miles) east of Jakarta.

ROCK-THROWING MOB

Papuans in the Indonesian capital, Jakarta, have vented anger against Freeport over a range of issues by damaging parts of the building housing company offices last week and by protests this Monday and Tuesday.

On Tuesday, hundreds of police in anti-riot gear exchanged blows with the outnumbered protesters, who tried to strip officers of their riot helmets and plastic shields, some of which were shattered in the scuffles.

Police sprayed water at the rock-throwing protesters but that only pushed them out of the building compound. Steps away, on one of Jakarta's busiest streets, they continued their rally loudly condemning Freeport, Indonesia's largest taxpayer.

"The police have over-reacted. This is just the beginning of our fight because we have not received anything good from Freeport. We are going to protest until Freeport is shut," said rally spokesman Marthen Goo.

So far, protesters have not reached the actual Freeport offices that occupy the higher floors of the building.

The Freeport operation has been a frequent source of controversy in Indonesia over issues ranging from its impact on the environment, to the share of revenue going to Papuans and Papua, to the legality of payments to Indonesian security forces who help guard the site.

Illegal miners often enter mining areas in Indonesia, a sprawling archipelago that is the world's fourth most populous country with huge metal deposits such as copper, gold and tin. (Additional reporting by Telly Nathalia)

Story by Achmad Sukarsono

REUTERS NEWS SERVICE


Shell told to pay Nigerians $1.5bn pollution damages

Oil giant will appeal against court decision
Kidnap and sabotage cripple production

Rory Carroll, Africa correspondent, The Guardian

25th February 2006

A Nigerian court yesterday ordered Royal Dutch Shell to pay $1.5bn (£858m) in damages for polluting the Niger delta, a fresh blow to the company which was already reeling from a kidnap crisis and a wave of sabotage against its installations.

A federal high court in Port Harcourt, the heart of the country's oil industry, ruled that Shell must compensate communities in Bayelsa state for degrading their creeks and spoiling crops and fishing. The decision was a major victory for the Ijaw people - who have campaigned for compensation for more than a decade - and one of Shell's worst legal setbacks.

The ruling came on the same day that news emerged of the nine employees of a US subcontractor kidnapped on February 18. The kidnappers of the nine - a Briton, three Americans, two Egyptians, two Thais and a Filipino - are demanding that people in the country's south receive a greater share of the region's oil wealth. The kidnappers have released what they call "pictures of our hostages with a section of the unit that secured their capture".

Yesterday they also brought one of the Americans along the Niger delta by boat to speak to journalists. Identifying himself as Macon Hawkins, from Texas, he said: "We're being treated quite well. Just let's hope it ends well."

Communities have repeatedly accused Shell of letting its oil spill into the rivers of the Niger delta, degrading the environment, spoiling crops and poisoning fish. Shell says most spills are caused by saboteurs trying to steal the oil for sale by international criminal syndicates on the world market.

As well as the court ruling and the kidnapping, this week has also seen militants blowing up pipelines and storming a loading platform, crippling Shell's output.

Justice Okechukwu Okeke's ruling in Port Harcourt yesterday upheld a vote by Nigeria's senate in August 2004 to fine Shell $1.5bn. Shell had argued that the parliamentary committee that made the original order in 2000 did not have the power to require payment. But the judge ruled that since both sides agreed to go before parliament, the order was binding.

Shell in London said the company would not comment in detail until it had received the text of the judgment; "however, we believe that we will have strong grounds to appeal as independent expert advice demonstrates that there is no evidence to support the claims".

It added that it remained committed to dialogue with the Ijaw people - a claim rejected by Ijaw leaders. Chief Malla Sasime, the ruler of the Ijaw Epie kingdom in Bayelsa, said: "Our people have gone through due process to get the judgment."

"They must pay the money or be ready to leave our land." Another Ijaw leader, Ngo Nac-Eteli, said Shell would be prevented from operating on Ijaw territory if it tried to buy time by appealing against the judgment.

Militant groups in the Niger delta have fought the government and the oil industry for 15 years, demanding a greater share of oil revenues and compensation for environmental damage. In 1995 the writer and campaigner Ken Saro-Wiwa was executed after leading a peaceful uprising of the Ogoni in opposition to Shell.

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