West Papua's tribal people are fiercely resisting the expansion of a mining operation owned by Freeport Mc MoRan of New Orleans, USA, which is threatening at least 2.5 million hectares of their land. The mine has been a source of conflict ever since the company came to West Papua in 1967, two years before the so-called 'Act of Free Choice' ceded West Papua to Indonesia (which it calls Irian Jaya).
Protests by the Amungme, Dani, Komoro and Ekari peoples living under the shadow of the mine have met with severe repression. Even the Indonesian government's own National Human Rights Commission has admitted that 16 people were murdered in Agani village and four 'disappeared' in Timika. A seperate report by Bishop Muninghoff states that on 31 May 1995, 11 people, including four children and a Protestant Minister, died after troops opened fire on villagers gathering for prayer. The local population blame the Indonesian military and Freeport security guards for these attacks. Yuliana Magal, an Amungme woman, is a typical victim of the current reign of terror. Arrested in October 1994, she was imprisoned without charge for a month in a cramped 'container' owned by the Freeport Indonesia Company (FIC), a subsidiary of Freeport McMoRan. She was tortured, sexually abused and threatened with shooting to extract information. 'What could I say? I can't speak Indonesian and the military can't speak the local language,' Yuliana recalls. FIC built its gold and copper mining complex in an area of the highlands belonging to the Amungme and Komoro.
Compensation under Indonesia's Agrarian Law has been derisory, taking no account of these peoples' land rights or long- term needs. Because of the mine, many Amungme have had to move to less healthy lowland areas. The Amungme are a 13,000 strong people living in the mountains and valleys of West Papua. In the valleys, they practice shifting cultivation, whilst in the mountains a hunting gathering lifestyle prevails. Amungme land is divided among 85 clans and in Amungme culture cannot be sold. Like other indigenous West Papuans, the Amungme have been subjected to campaigns of forcible 'assimilation' by the Indonesian authorities. FIC'S activities strike at the heart of Amungme life because the snow capped mountains are sacred. The place where the mine has gouged out a huge crater is the home of Jo-Mun Nerek, their guiding ancestral spirit. Neither FIC nor the Indonesian Government respect the religious significance of the mountains to the Amungme.
Despite FIC's claims to be bringing the alleged advantages of modern life, local people have not yet benefitted materially from the mine. Less than 150 out of 7,500 company employees are West Papuans. Each day 110,000 tonnes of highly toxic mine tailings are discharged into the Aykwa river, with horrifying consequences. In 1980, for example, a local doctor diagnosed copper poisoning after 216 children died mysteriously. FIC owns some of the richest copper and gold mines anywhere in the world. They generate 47% of West Papua's Gross Domestic Product, but their profits are made through the shameless exploitation of Amungme land. FIC's development of new mining areas will involve the relocation of an estimated 2,000 people. The expansion has been made possible by a 1.8 billion investment by London -based RTZ, the worlds largest mining company.
RTZ now has an 11.8% share in Feeport McMoRan and a seat on the company's board. It has agreed to finance the development of new deposits on West Papua's tribal lands, despite many reported abuses associated with FIC.
West Papua's tribal peoples are determined to prevent the expansion of the mine and to put the spotlight of world opinion on the Indonesian Government, the military and Freeport McMoRan. As one Amungme leader put it; 'Freport is digging out our mother's brain. That is why we are resisting.'
President Suharto James Moffett Robert Wilson President RI Chairman Chief Executive Istana Negara Freeport McMoran Inc RTZ Corporation PLC Jalan Veteran 1615 Poydras Street 6 St James' Square Jarkarta New Orleans London SW1Y4LD Indonesia La 70012 United Kingdom USA
Make the following points:
1. A full, official public inquiry into extra-judicial killings, torture and arbitary imprisonment is urgently needed and its results must be acted upon. The area around the mine should be demilitarised.
2. Current operations and further investment in Freeport's West Papua operations must be halted until human rights violations end.
3. The Indonesian Government must recognise the Amungme's right to the ownership of their land and resources.
a. By spending a few minutes writing to the addresses in this Take Action Bulletin, you will be taking really effective action to help tribal peoples in West Papua. b. Write in English, or your own language. c. Be brief. d. It is very important to be polite-however strongly you feel about the issue.
The Indonesians first announced a transmigration plan in 1963. They have continued and extended this policy since 1966 as part of their aim of reducing the over-population of Java, 'developing' the outer islands and providing some military presence in the border zones.
The transmigration programme of the Indonesian government is based on a false premise. The transmigrants who have been sent to the outer islands, make no difference to Java's poulation problem, which is based primarily on an unequal distribution of resources. After arriving at the sites, the transmigrants have had considerable difficulties in adapting to the new enviroment and many return, or abandon the sites for nearby towns.
Under Indonesian national law, all forest land-defined as not being actively used for agriculture, housing or industry-is state property. This definition of land is particularly inappropriate to the needs of a shifting cultivator or hunter gatherer society, such as the Papuan, in which use of the land involves cropping of natural products, hunting of wildlife, or occasional cultivation with long fallow periods.
According to the West Papua transmigration chief Imam Sutoko, the Indonesians consider that the sites in West Papua should differ according to the region. He advocates plantations and livestock sites in the north and fishing and wet rice fields in the south. He argues for transmigration on the grounds that the population density is lower than that of Java and therefore West Papua could hold more people. This approach completely ignores the delicate environment of West Papua and its population support capacity which is considerably lower than that of the intensive agricutural areas of Java.
Although the land in West Papua may be sparsely populated, it is generally claimed and utilised by the people as an essential aspect of their subsistence; this includes areas reserved for wildlife and game. Early transmigration schemes sought simply to locate people in empty land, ie."national land", without thought of compensation to local people for a loss which was not recognised by authorities.
Settlement is conducted over three successive stages. The first is identifying, mapping and clearing the ground and constructing dwellings. This takes approximately 18 months. The next two years are spent poulating the site with more transmigrants while the third stage consists of a five year period when the area should be producing at production capacity level. In reality this does not happen. The soils of West Papua are predominately those of a tropical rainforest which are not suitable for wet rice agriculture, and transmigrants suffer from poor production, local hostility, mismanagement and a high incidence of malaria.
Oficially, transmigrants are supposed to be volunteers from among the landless rural population of inner Indonesia, but there have been many cases of transmigrants 'press ganged' into moving. In her study of transmigration, Transmigrasi: Indonesian Resettlement Policy, 1965-1985, Mariel Otten describes the intimidation and methods of forced recruitment which the authorities in Indonesia have used to get people to become transmigrants.
Melanesians have no concept of a landlord-tenant relationship and there is no right to sell land. Land for the West Papuans is inalienable and comunally held. This point is illustrated by an elder from Dosal who sufferred from transmigration in the first phase of Indonesian Occupation in 1966. "First the Dutch came , then the Japanese, then the Americans, then the Dutch returned and now the Indonesians have come. We sold our land to each in turn, but we people are still here, and so is our land.
The verb to "sell" is not occidental. In fact selling for a Papuan does not mean relinquishing communal ownership. It may grant certain use rights for a limited period, but it does not mean handing over total rights to land. Indigenous peoples all over the world regard land in the same way; they are part of a symbiotic relationship.
By 1984 some 25 transmigration sites had been established on 700,000 hectares of ancestral land taken from West Papuan peoples. Today West Papua is rife with rumours and stories of dubious land 'purchases'; where land is expropriated when chiefs are told to sign a document and accept gifts, thereby losing their land. Often the occasional crate of beer is thought added incentive by the Indonesians who believe that the 'development' which comes with transmigration is clearly enough compensation for any land taken from the locals.
Conflict over land has resulted in many examples of heavy-handed and brutal intervention by the Indonesian army. Many have had to leave their homelands that have sustained them for thousands of years and many have simply disappeared.
You can help us to change this course of events. Please join the Friends of West Papua.
"A fossil of the sixties": Mine expert attacks environmental audit of one of world's biggest mines
The Freeport/RTZ Grasberg copper-gold mine in West Papua (Indonesia) is one of the biggest in the world.
For nearly twenty years it has been the subject of severe criticism for its alleged environmental pollution, danger to indigenous West Papuans and complicity in human rights abuses. Last year, the US agency OPIC withdrew political risk insurance from the mine, on environmental grounds.
In the face of such criticisms the company commissioned an environmental audit from the well-known mining consultants, Dames and Moore. While criticising Freeport/RTZ for some of its operations, Dames and Moore nonetheless considered that a strong effort was being made to rectify the problems. In response to the Dames and Moore audit, and suffering from heavy political pressure from Freeport, OPIC has temporarily resumed political risk insurance. Now, however, a leading European geologist, with direct experience in the region of the mine, and acknowledged as a world expert on the impacts of copper mining, has issued a damning indictment of the Dames and Moore report.
According to this expert:
* the Dames and Moore report is "quite superficial" and hedged
about with qualifying phrases which "can justify almost any mode
of operation". the impacts of the huge amounts of rock waste from
the mine have not been properly calculated
* the highly toxic effects of copper in the marine environment have been virtually ignored
* the site used for disposal of the wastes and the construction of levees to contain further tailings (mill wastes) are inadequate.
* the dangers of acid rock drainage (ARD) are not properly addressed - yet these constitute a "chemical reactor" which it will be extremely difficult to control.
* the mine's mode of operation is a "fossil of the 1960's", because the company has not improved its environmental practices so that its practices in 'developing' countries match those insisted on in 'developed' countries.
In releasing this expert's critique, a number of organisations concerned about the Freeport/RTZ mine are calling for the immediate initiation of a fully independent Environmental Impact Assessment, before any further expansion of the mine's operations, They include: West Papua Forum, World Development Movement, Tapol (Indonesia Human Rights Campaign), Minewatch, Partizans, Survival International.
The expert's report
A copy of the Executive Summary of the Dames & Moore environmental audit report on Freeport was received in early July from a British NGO. The author of this paper was asked to briefly review the audit and make comments on the environmental impact of the Freeport operation at Ertsberg/Grasberg in general.
Although described by its authors as an Executive Summary, the 42-pages document now reviewed is actually entitled "PTFI Environmental Audit Report, and to the author's knowledge, no other version is being made available for public comment. The report is quite superficial. Important data on ore reserves, production and volumes of residues generated are missing. Only scant analytical data on water and sediment quality are given and important information e.g. on the potential mobilization of copper from tailings and waste rock deposited in the lowlands is not included.
Following a short description of the mining project, selected aspects of Freeport's operations at Grasberg and Ertsberg are analyzed in the order in which they appear in the audit report.
2. Waste rock and tailings disposal by the Grasberg mine
The most critical environmental impact of Freeport's operations is the discharge of waste rock, overburden and tailings into the head waters of the Otomona-Ajkwa river system. The basis of any evaluation of this impact is the calculation of the volume of rock material to be disposed of, and the mode of disposal. Detailed information on both issues is not included in the Dames & Moore report.
The Grasberg deposit holds reserves of about 1006 Mt of ore at 1.22 wt. % Cu, 1,51 g/t gold, and 3.28 g/t silver (Mining Annual Review 1995), and mine life is now put at 45 years (1990 -2035). Presently, 125,000 tons/day or 45 Mt/a (million tons/year) of ore at a cut-off grade of 0.85% Copper are processed and subsequently discharged as mill tailings. The mill is to be expanded to a capacity of 190,000 tons/day; construction is expected to begin later this year (Mining Journal June 14, 1996).
According to a March 1992 article in the Mining Magazine, the stripping ratio (the relation between waste rock/overburden and ore) at the Grasberg deposit is 4.5:1, i.e. in order to extract one ton of ore, 4.5 tons of waste rock have to be removed. Therefore, 562,500 tons of waste rock per day or about 200 Mt/a have to be disposed of (at an ore production rate of 125,000 tons/day). However, the stripping ratio of 4.5:1 probably refers to pre-ore stripping and may eventually fall to 3.0:1. The Dames & Moore report states that a total of 3,200 Mt of overburden and waste rock are to be removed from the Grasberg open pit.
Overburden and waste rock go over the west side of the pit, into the upper Wanagon valley. The Dames & Moore audit fails to report on the stability and character of the waste dump. The description, and conclusions, given below are based on a visitor's observations (an American economic geologist) in late 1994.
The Wanagon waste dump is a failing (erodible) .structure similar to the waste dump operated at the Ok Tedi mine in the highlands of Papua New Guinea. Given the steep slope of the dump and high rainfall at the site (estimated at 4,000-6,000 mm/year), a significant proportion of the waste will be washed down southwards to the Aghawagon River and Lake Wanagon. Due to abrasion during aluviatile transport, the waste rock material becomes finer and mixes itself with the tailings downstream. It is unclear whether Lake Wanagon acts as an effective sediment trap and what its storage capacity is.
The de-watered tailings slurry is directly discharged into the Aghawagon river which joins with the Otomona River downstream. Presumably, all of the tailings material is fine enough to be transported as wash load down to the lowlands. Although the Dames & Moore report only refers to tailings deposition in the lowlands and delta, there certainly is a significant amount of waste rock in the mining residues transported as suspended load.
3. Review of the Dames & Moore Environmental Audit section 4. 0 Legislative and regulatory framework
P.T. Freeport operates under a Contract of Work (CoW) with the
Government of Indonesia. The CoW system, now in its fifth
generation, has three important features, which are (quotation
from a seminar paper on "International mining investment and
regulation" held by the Centre for Petroleum & Mineral Law &
Policy, Dundee GB, in September 1995):
* Status of Law: A CoW supersedes all other government regulations and is immune from the effects of any subsequent changes in legislation.
* Land Rights: A CoW takes precedence over any existing land rights. Procedures for compensation and resettlement of local landowners are relatively uncomplicated.
* Duration: A CoW can last up to thirty years with the possibility of extensions. As these legal features also have implications for the environmental management of Freeport's operation, they should have been discussed in the audit report.
section 6. 0 Tailings Management
The statement that tailings derived from the Grasberg mine contain no toxic chemicals and are low in trace metals like arsenic, cadmium and mercury may be correct but is of little use -tailings and eroded waste rock do contain copper at highly elevated concentrations, and copper is both geochemically mobile and highly toxic to aquatic organisms.
The conversion of the Otomona-Ajkwa freshwater resource, which had been used for washing, bathing, river transport, fishing and - possibly - drinking water supply for the local indigenous people, into a slurry channel carrying several thousand milligrams per litre of suspended solids, is much more than "unsightly and unwelcome" and aesthetically disturbing!
The discussion of alternative methods of tailings disposal is illuminating. The construction of a lowlands tailings storage of a calculated required dimension of 36 km2 was rejected because of the associated environmental risks - yet the company is now building a poorly engineered 130 km2 storage facility on the "foundation" of a catastrophic flow event of the Ajkwa, which flooded 30 km2 in the Timika area in 1990. The company is currently constructing two levees about 3 km apart along the lower Ajkwa (about 40 km length) to prevent further lateral over bank flow. The audit report quotes sediment transport studies which indicate that most of the mining residues will deposit in the artificial floodplain. Given the dynamic flow characteristics of the Otomona-Ajkwa river system (very high transport capacity at high river stages) and the fact that most tailings (Ok Tedi mine: 78%) presumably are finer than 100 um, this is doubtful. ln any case, storage within the levee containment will mainly be temporary because erosion of the deposits will begin as soon as the suspended load of the Ajkwa decreases (when mining ceases).
On the other hand, a surface of up to 130 km2 between the levees may finally be covered with metal sulphide-rich sediments, exposed to weathering, i.e. oxidation. The audit report fails to comment on the potential danger of copper leaching from these deposits, although it is known to occur under similar climatic conditions in the Fly River floodplain which is impacted by mine-derived sediments from the Ok Tedi project. Even if dense vegetation cover establishes itself on the Grasberg tailing sediments, copper may continue to be mobilized since dissolved organic substances (humic and fulvic acids produced by rotting vegetation) bring copper into solution.
section 7. 0 Overburden management
The Dames & Moore audit reports that acid rock drainage (ARD) is already occurring from the main waste dump. ARD is caused by the bacterially mediated oxidation of sulphide ore minerals and subsequent generation of sulphuric acid; a process which only starts when there is little or no buffering by alkalinity- producing minerals, mainly carbonates. The reactions involved in sulphide oxidation are complex and, to some extent, auto that H+ and Fe3 + ions and the heat produced in the reactions facilitate various parts of the reaction cycle. At first sight, the development of ARD from the Grasberg dump is amazing because the copper-gold intrusive complex is hosted by carbonate rocks (New Guinea Limestone Group of Tertiary age, MacDonald & Arnold 1994). Due to the morphology of the ore body, the overburden and waste rock removed so far did not comprise carbonate rocks, which will be mined once the open pit gets deeper. The fact that ARD has already developed is alarming. A waste rock dump from which ARD is observed can be described as a chemical reactor - once the sulphide oxidation has started, it is extremely difficult to stop. The oxidation of sulphide minerals like pyrite (FeS2) and chalcopyrite (CuFeS2) continues as long as sufficient oxygen and water are available (supplied by air in porous rocks or by percolating rainwater). ARD may be controlled by - preventing the percolation/infiltration of water and oxygen by covp with a lined bottom, stable walls, graded surface, seepage collection dikes etc., but will not work well on a "wild" dump like Freeport's. Huge amounts of chemicals would be needed to control ARD in the dump and the steep, sliding dump faces and high precipitation complicate the situation further. A similar process of acid generation may occur in the lowlands storage facility, although admixture of carbonate-rich natural sediments from the Ajkwa catchment (hopefully) has a positive buffering effect. ARD from the tailings deposits in the floodplain of the Kawerong/Jaba rivers was observed downstream of the Panguna mine on Bougainville, Papua New Guinea (Salomons 1995).
The measures foreseen in the "Overburden Management Plan" e.g. placement of thick layers of non-acid producing waste over the pyritic material, presumably will have only marginal effects on ARD generation.
section 8.0 Resource conservation and recovery
The cut-off grade at Grasberg - i.e. the point below which ore is not considered economic to be milled - is 0. 85 wt. % copper, the highest of any copper mine in the world. This value is equivalent to the average ore grade of the Ok Tedi mine, which operates at a cut-off of 0.2% copper (admittedly, the stripping ratio of 1:1 is much better). Dumping of all ore which contains less then 0.85% copper at Grasberg drastically increases the environmental impact of the operation and is a waste of valuable resources which should be a concern to the Government of Indonesia. Grasberg's production costs are among the lowest in the world.
section 10.0 Environmental monitoring
The environmental monitoring and additional investigations of water and sediment chemistry, sediment transport, trace metal mobilization, and aquatic biology, which PTFI is currently maintaining, appear rudimentary compared to what other companies (e.g. Ok Tedi Mining Ltd.) are doing. PTFI is fulfilling its obligations under the agreements with the Indonesian Government authorities (KPL, Environmental Monitoring Plan) but makes little effort to address highly important issues like trace metal and turbidity pollution of the Arafura Sea. It is interesting to note that submarine tailings disposal was discarded because of environmental considerations - the Arafura Sea is shallow and there are coral reefs close to the shore. Bewilderingly, however, the continued massive discharge of tailings material carried in suspension into that same sea is apparently not considered a problem.
section 12.0 Rehabilitation
The audit gives some information on overburden reclamation. It is unclear to what deposits of overburden this refers to - the main waste rock and overburden dump with its steep and sliding surfaces certainly can only be revegetated and stabilized in small sections, but is this considered sufficient?
Due to the interruption of local surface drainage to the west of the newly constructed Ajkwa levee (in the lowlands), a stagnant water body has formed in which forest trees have drowned. Yet the audit report terms this the 'creation of an extensive lake and wetland system', even calling it a 'significant achievement'.
4. Concluding remarks on methodology and approach of the Dames & Moore report
The audit report frequently uses phrases like "(...) PTFl has adopted the most suitable option considering the circumstances that apply" (page 3). Under "given circumstances" and "economic constraints", any mode of operation may be justified - this is merely a political question. The important issue is the environmental impact on a fragile and valuable ecosystem in which tens of thousands of people are living, and whether it is deemed appropriate to eliminate and/or endanger part of this ecosystem in order to ensure the operation of one of the world's most profitable mining projects.
Today, most multinational companies apply similar or even identical environmental standards to their projects in developing countries as they do at home - the Freeport operation in these terms is a fossil of the 1960s.
Hettler, J. & Lehmann, B. (1995). Environmental impact of large-scale mining in Papua New Guinea: Mining residue disposal by the Ok Tedi copper-gold mine. Final report on a study funded by the United Nations Environment Programme. SPREP Reports and Studies Series No. 90, 1-71.
MacDonald, G.D. & Arnold, L.C. (1994). Geological and geochemical zoning of the Grasberg Igneous Complex, Irian Jaya, Indonesia. J. Geochem. Expl. 50, 143-178.
Salomons, W. (1995). Environmental impact of metals derived from mining activities: Processes, predictions and prevention. J. Geochem. Expl. 52, 5-23.
Various articles from the Mining Journal, Mining Magazine and Mining Environmental Mananagement
Originally from: Ownerfirstname.lastname@example.org (Moderator)
Originally dated: Tue 15th Oct, 1996
Mother Jones Magazine, September/October 1996. Page 66. Full text.
By keeping away from its Indonesian mine -- which contains gold, silver, and copper valued at $50 billion -- New Orleans-based Freeport-McMoRan has managed to put its spin on environmental and human rights abuses near the mine.
By Robert Bryce
In Mexico, Hernan Cortes' lust for gold led to the destruction of the Aztec empire. In Peru, Francisco Pizarro ransomed the Incan ruler Atahualpa for a roomful of gold, then had him strangled anyway.
Four hundred years later, corporations have replaced the conquistadors. And the modern-day Pizarro is Jim Bob Moffett, CEO of Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold, a New Orleans-based mining company with 1995 revenues of $1.8 billion.
Since 1973, Freeport has operated the world's largest gold mine, located in Irian Jaya, Indonesia. But Freeport's treasure comes at the expense of the indigenous people whose homeland the mining company has invaded and polluted. In the past two years, at least one report has charged the mining operation with wholesale environmental destruction; two others investigated human rights abuses committed near the mine by the company's business partner, the corrupt regime of Indonesia's President Suharto; and a fourth report raised questions about Freeport's role in military abuses.
While reports of similar problems in Nigeria have put Royal Dutch/Shell in the international spotlight, Freeport has largely avoided scrutiny, in part because of its skillful manipulation of the media. Other than a smattering of U.S. coverage, accounts of Freeport's problems in Indonesia have been limited to local news stories in New Orleans and Austin, Texas, where the company is developing a 4,000-acre real estate project.
Because the mine - which contains gold, silver, and copper valued at $50 billion - is located in one of the most remote areas on the globe, Freeport has managed to restrict media access. When journalists air unflattering information about Freeport, the company threatens legal action, or, in some cases, hires them as company flacks, Freeport also spends millions to polish its public image by purchasing print and TV ads, and by making high-profile charitable donations. Behind the scenes, the company wields political muscle with heavyweights such as former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger.
In April 1995, the Australian Council for Overseas Aid, a nongovernmental consortium concerned with development and human rights issues, released a report on Freeport that suggests the company turned a blind eye while the Indonesian military killed and tortured dozens of native people in and around Freeport's 5.75-million-acre concession between dune 1994 and February 1995.
After the ACFOA report, investigations by the Catholic Church of Jayapura and the National Human Rights Commission of Indonesia reported at least 16 cases of murder and other incidents of torture by the Indonesian military near the mine. "[Villagers] were beaten with rattan, sticks, and rifle butts, and kicked with boots," one tribal leader told Catholic Church officials. "[Some] were tortured till they died." Neither investigation addresses whether Freeport played a role in the killings, although the church report notes that one murder took place on a company bus and three villagers died under torture at a Freeport workshop. (Freeport denies the workshop exists.)
Freeport adamantly claims it was not responsible for the killings, and it has condemned the military's actions. The company also points out that ACFOA backtracked on its original claim that Freeport was involved in the killings. But critics note Freeport maintains close relations with Suharto's regime. Military troops guard the area around the mine, and Freeport provides them with food, shelter, and transportation. The Indonesian government, which has a 9 percent share in the mine, will receive $480 million this year in royalties, taxes, and benefits from the mine, according to the New Orleans Times-Picayune.
KILLING THE RAINFOREST
International outrage over the human rights abuses in Irian Jaya has helped the native Amungme people draw attention to the devastating impact Freeport's mining practices have had on the local environment. Freeport's Grasberg mine is essentially grinding the Indonesian mountain into dust, skimming off the precious metals, and dumping the remainder into the Ajkwa River. The pulverized rock (called "tailings") has created a wasteland in the river valley below. By its own estimates the company will dump more than 40 million tons of tailings into the river this year alone.
The mine's tailings have already "severely impacted" more than 11 square miles of rainforest, according to a 1996 Dames & Moore environmental audit. The report, endorsed by Freeport, also estimates the over the life of the mine 3.2 billion tons of waste rock - a great part of which generates acid - will be dumped into the local river system. The acid has already polluted a nearby lake.
"They take our land and our grandparents' land," says Tom Beanal, a leader of the Amungme people. "They ruined the mountains. They ruined our environment by putting the west' in the river. We can't drink our water anymore."
Last October, after a lengthy investigation, the Overseas Private Investment Corp., a federal agency that supports American companies doing business overseas, canceled Freeport's $100 million political-risk insurance policy, citing environmental problems at the mine. In a letter dated October 10, OPIC told Freeport the mine had "created and continues to pose unreasonable or major environmental, health, or safety hazards with respect to the rivers that are being impacted by the tailings, the surrounding terrestrial ecosystem, and the local inhabitants."
Freeport CEO Jim Bob Moffett has little patience with anyone who doesn't see the world exactly as he does. The son of a department store clerk, Moffett began his career in the oil business before becoming CEO of Freeport-McMoRan in 1985. Until recently, he was best known for his 1987 attempt to dump 12 million tons of low-level radioactive gypsum into the Mississippi River. Graef Crystal, publisher of the "Crystal Report," a newsletter about corporate executives' pay, has often singled out Moffett as being overpaid. In 1995, Moffett's salary, bonuses, and stock options exceeded $42 million. (By comparison, Robert Allen, CEO of AT&T-a company with revenues 40 times greater than Freeport's- received less than half as much.)
On November 2, the day news of the OPIC insurance cancellation broke, an indignant Moffett went on live television in New Orleans, telling WOOL-TV anchorman Bill Elder, "There's been no claim by OPIC that we have an environmental problem."
The next day, Elder saw OPIC's letter to Freeport, which explicitly cited environmental concerns. "Moffett clearly lied," says Elder. Furious, Elder called Moffett and asked permission to visit the mine. The CEO agreed to take Elder the following week, but there was a hitch: He couldn't take his own cameras and would have to use equipment provided by the company.
Elder turned down Moffett's offer and decided to go to Indonesia on his own. But in Sydney, Australia, he spent a fruitless week trying to get an entry visa. The Indonesian consulate told him he had- to get permission from Freeport. Freeport said he had to get permission from the consulate. "It was clear [Freeport] blocked me," says Elder.
When he returned to New Orleans, Elder learned Freeport officials had visited WOOL, making veiled threats that they might sue the station. And while Elder had been stuck in Australia, Freeport had allowed a Times-Picayune reporter to tour
the mine. Elder called Moffett again. "How come they are there and we're not?" he asked "Well," said Moffett, "you should've just done what we told you."
HIRING THE CRITICS
Bill Elder is just one in a long line of journalists and critics to be threatened with lawsuits by Freeport. Over the past year, the company has sent letters to at least three journalists (including this reporter), two activists, and three professors at the University of Texas at Austin, claiming it would seek "legal recourse" against any party who made "false and damaging accusations." (The company did not cite specific examples.)
Freeport has quieted other journalists by hiring them. In the late 1980s, Elder's former co-worker, WWL anchorman Garland Robinette, did a five-part series critical of Freeport's environmental practices. In 1990, Moffett offered him a job as Freeport's vice president of communications. Robinette accepted, taking three of WWL's best people with him. In 1993, Robinette's department was spun off to form Planit Communications, Freeport's public relations firm.
In 1992, Bill Collier, formerly an environmental reporter with the Austin American-Statesman, became Freeport's spokesman in Austin, where the company's real estate project has run into strong opposition from local environmentalists. (Robinette and Collier declined to be interviewed for this article.) In 1994, Planit also hired Gerard Braud, a reporter for WDSU-TV in New Orleans, whose stories had raised questions about Freeport's environmental record.
FREEPORT'S GOOD NEWS
Freeport's multimillion-dollar media strategy includes a massive ad campaign intended to answer critical reports. "The press will communicate maybe a half-dozen times," Robinette told the Columbia Journalism Review earlier this year. "We'll communicate with the public a couple hundred times."
In November, after the OPIC cancellation, Freeport aired a half-hour infomercial in Austin and New Orleans. (Freeport paid for the airtime in Austin. But in New Orleans, according to the Times-Picayune, PBS station WLAE-TV broadcast the company's infomercial as an educational special at no charge. Freeport, one of WLAE's corporate sponsors, gave the station $15,000 last year.)
Freeport has also spent hundreds of thousands of dollars buying ads in magazines such as Newsweek and U.S. News & World Report, and has placed dozens of full-page ads in Austin and New Orleans newspapers. In December, Freeport bought three full-page ads in the New York Times, one of which blamed the OPIC insurance cancellation on "foreign interests" spreading "false or misleading accusations."
In April, Freeport spent $162,000 on an eight-page ad in Texas Monthly. In return, Michael Levy, the magazine's publisher, sent a letter to Austin community leaders repeating much of Freeport's message. (Levy wrote that the challenge "is to mine responsibly so that the environmental effect is minimized and the economic benefits for the surrounding communities are maximized.") Levy says it is standard procedure for him to write letters on behalf of big advertisers. "We do it for anybody that spends a lot of money with us," Levy said.
Freeport's money has also purchased allies in politics and academia. Moffett ranked 400th on Mother Jones' list of the country's top individual political contributors ("The Mother Jones 400," March/April 1996), donating $52,000 from 1993 to June 1995. Meanwhile, Freeport's PAC has given nearly $1 million to federal candidates since 1980.
After OPIC canceled the company's political-risk insurance policy, Louisiana politicians, including Democrat Sen. John Breaux and Republican Rep. Billy Tauzin (who have each received at least $6,500 from Freeport and its directors since 1989), quickly rallied to the company's side and criticized OPIC's decision. Freeport also enlisted the help of international affairs guru Henry Kissinger, who sits on the company's board; his firm receives a yearly retainer fee of $200,000 from Freeport, according to the Los Angeles Times.
But politicos weren't the only ones who leaped to Freeport's defense. The company has developed unexpected allies by giving millions to academic and charitable institutions in New Orleans and Austin. Tulane University (which has received $1.25 million from Freeport in charitable donations) joined the University of New Orleans ($1.6 million), Loyola University ($1.1 million), and Louisiana State University ($4.1 million) in taking out a full-page ad in the Times-Picayune calling Freeport a "caring corporate citizen."
In April, OPIC backtracked, reinstating Freeport's insurance until the end of the year. In turn, the company agreed to create a $100 million trust fund for the remediation of the site after the mine shuts down. (Freeport signed a 30-year lease on the mine in 1991, with options to extend it for up to 20 more years.)
Yet controversy around Freeport is growing in the United States. Professors and students at the University of Texas at Austin have denounced its close ties to Freeport. Specifically, they protested the school's decision two years ago to name its new molecular biology building after Moffett, a former UT football player who has given some $3.6 million to his alma mater. Last December, after Freeport threatened to sue UT professors critical of the company, Chancellor William Cunningham stepped down from his position on Freeport's board of directors. Nonetheless, Cunningham cashed out big, earning $650,422 in one day by exercising stock options given him by the company, according to the Austin American-Statesman; Freeport even covered Cunningham's federal tax liability on the transaction.
In Indonesia, tensions are escalating over the growing military presence near Freeport's operation. In March, several thousand villagers rioted in the towns of Timika and Tembagapura, located near the mine. Four people were killed and more than a dozen injured. Protesters damaged Freeport's equipment, and the mine closed for more than two days.
On April 29, Tom Beanal filed a $6 billion class-action lawsuit against Freeport on behalf of the Amungme people, charging that the mining company has engaged in "ecoterrorism" and "cultural genocide," among other claims. "From all the mining, what do we get?" asks Beanal. "They ask us to leave our land. They've taken away our tradition and our culture. We've become alienated in our own land."
The suit may pose a larger threat to Freeport than any negative press coverage. On June 11, Broken Hill Proprietary Ltd., one of Australia's largest companies, settled a lawsuit brought by indigenous leaders from the area surrounding its Ok Tedi mine - located in Papua New Guinea, 300 miles east of Freeport's operation. The mine was dumping 80,000 tons of mine tailings into the local river system each day. The settlement, which could cost BHP more than $400 million, requires the company to prepare a plan to stop dumping tailings in the river and to give local indigenous groups a 10 percent equity stake in the mine.
While Beanal waits for his suit-- modeled on the BHP suit - to go to trial, the military presence around the mine has increased. After the March riots, the Indonesian military brought in thousands of heavily armed soldiers to protect the mine, heightening fears of further violence. During a hearing on the lawsuit, a Freeport lawyer asked Beanal if he feared for his safety. Beanal paused for a moment before replying slowly, "With the situation in Timika, anyone would be afraid."
Far from backing down, Freeport plans a huge expansion of its mining operation. At present, the company mines 125,000 tons of ore daily. The company intends to increase that amount to 190,000 tons per day At that rate, Freeport will dump enough tailings in the Ajkwa River to fill Houston's Astrodome every three weeks.
Nor is Moffett striking a conciliatory pose, recently telling the London limes that he is in a "new Cold War" with his critics. He continues to deny that the mine has any adverse environmental effects, describing its pollution as "the equivalent of me pissing in the Arafura Sea." Last year, Moffett described his mining operation in the Nation magazine as "thrusting a spear of economic development into the heartland of Irian Jaya."
It's an odd choice of words, but for a modern conquistador, the metaphor has proved deadly accurate.
Robert Bryce is a contributing editor at the Austin Chronicle.
Many thanks to Charles Scheiner email@example.com
Originally from: firstname.lastname@example.org (Moderator)
Originally dated: Fri, 04 Apr 1997
River Ajkwa polluted
JAYAPURA, Irian Jaya:
Jakarta Post, 27 March 1997
Residents along the Ajkwa River which flows from the outskirts of Tembagapura city to Timika the capital of East Mimika regency, have been warned against drinking the polluted water, Antara reported.
Yusuf Tappang from the provincial administration's environmental promotion bureau said Thursday that studies showed the river was contaminated by PT Freeport Indonesia's mining waste. "The water is no longer potable," Tappang said in a seminar.
The mining waste, known as tailings, also affected thousands of hectares of forest along the river, Tappang said. Freeport has repeatedly denied pollution charges. Last year, it hired an international environmental audit agency to back up its claim of clean mining operations.
1] Title: PT FREEPORT DISBURSED US$1 BILLION
FOR INDONESIA OPERATION IN 1996
Date: August 12, 1997
Jayapura, Irian Jaya - The American copper mining company, PT Freeport Indonesia, in 1996 has disbursed a total of US $1,070,025,877 for its mining operations in the province here.
Freeport vice president for public relations, Augus Kafiar, in Kuala Kencana, Freeport's mining site in Timika, on Monday said that the fund disbursement constitutes direct benefits of copper mining activities by the company for payment of operating expenses like salaries, food and beverage, services, and community development.
Funds for operating cost totalled US $ 887,014,134.
Apart from it, the company also paid US $ 18,275,400 for dividends and tax, as well as royalties to the government totalling US$164,736,333.
The amount, he added, does not include indirect benefits from the mining activities in the form of infrastructure constructions like airport, seaport, roads, electricity, clean water, telecommunications, education, and health, among others.
All the infrastructures and facilities that have been constructed will be returned to the government when mining activities are terminated, he said.
Jayapura - PT Freeport Indonesia, the Canadian (sic!) foreign investment company engaged in copper mining, has earmarked US $ 51 million each year to finance a waste treatment and environmental preservation management programme, a company official said.
Freeport's manager for environment matters, Wisnu Susetyo in Kota Kuala Kencana, Timika sub-district, Irian Jaya, said recently the company's objective in having several environment management programmes is to preserve and conserve the environment around the mining site.
The company did not like being accused of having neglected the development of the region and the environment around the mining site. The main programmes currently undertaken include a waste overburden management programme worth US $ 8 million per year, a tailing waste management programme along the Ajkwa river of US $15 million/year, an environmental observation programme and a tailing accumulation reclamation area that is no longer active costing US $ 18 million/year, and a study on environmental problems in cooperation with domestic and overseas environmental consultants amounting to US $ 10 million/year.
These amounts do not include the costs of managing solid and liquid waste, humus management at mining sites, operational costs to recover unused mining sites so as to prevent acid concentration and water purification activities of the Wanagon Lake.
Despite the protests of many years of indigenous peoples the Dutch investor ABN-AMRO bank refuses to criticise the mining operations of Freeport/Rio Tinto in West Papua. After a visit to the bank Friends of the Earth Netherlands started a letter writing campaign against the bank, which you find below.
We're not asking the bank to divest, but rather exert pressure on Freeport/Rio Tinto by making a public statement on the recent protests, and on the need for social and environmental improvements.
As follows a short background information (probably known to many of you who watch the situation in West Papua), an example letter, and addresses of the bank in different parts of the world.
Please, distribute the action as widely as possible, and write your own letter to the ABN-AMRO bank. Printed copies of the action alert are available from our office.
Write to life!
Friends of the Earth Netherlands
Tel + 31 20 6202696
Fax + 31 20 6392333
ALARM # 48, September 1997
West Papua: Dutch Bank financing controversial mine
Dutch Bank ABN-AMRO is financing the controversial mining operations of Freeport/Rio Tinto in West Papua (Irian Jaya). Renewed protests against mining company activities in August this year resulted in more deaths. Since the beginning, indigenous peoples have been protesting against the pollution and social consequences of the copper and gold mines. In a talk with Milieudefensie, ABN-AMRO stated it does not wish to finance any "controversial projects" and upholds "its own corporate responsibility". Write to ABN-AMRO and ask it to live up to that responsibility.
Mining and environment
The indigenous Papua peoples Amungme and Kamoro have always lived in the area now used for mining. Together with immigrants from other parts of Indonesia they are greatly concerned about the region in which Ertsberg and Grasberg mines are located. Miners there have a contract to work 2.6 million hectares of land (two- thirds the size of the Netherlands). The American company Freeport McMoRan and the English company Rio Tinto release wastes into the region's rivers, resulting in floods in 1991. A 21 km2 rainforest was turned into a swamp. By the end of the mining period 4 billion tonnes of waste (some of it toxic) will have been dumped in an area comparable to 1,700 soccer fields.
Papuas in revolt
The Amungme and Kamoro have protested the damage to their homeland. The water they use for drinking, washing and fishing comes from the polluted rivers. During an earlier revolt, in 1995, Freeport director Moffet promised compensation. He offered 1% of the company's profits to the local people. This is a small percentage of the US$ 6 billion demanded by the Amungme in a court case against Freeport in the US, which is partly needed to repair environmental damage. The peoples also believe that funds are being unfairly distributed. In this they have the support of West Papuan churches, which in a letter to Indonesian authorities on 14 August requested that the present compensation ruling be stopped, due to the unrest it has brought on.
On 21 August the issue again flared up, when two local residents where found dead after accepting a lift from a Freeport vehicle. After residents blocked an entrance to the mining town Timika, the Indonesian army took action. Following the blockade Amnesty International reported two villagers dead, fifteen wounded and seven missing.
ABN-AMRO has been investing in the mining project for more than ten years, and has got a small number of shares of Rio Tinto. In a talk with Friends of the Earth Indonesia and Netherlands on August 25 the ABN-AMRO representatives stated that the bank feels an "own corporate responsibility" for the projects in which it invests. They also announced that the bank does not wish to be involved in "controversial" projects. However, the above clearly shows just how controversial mining in West Papua is.
Therefore, write to the branch of the ABN-AMRO bank closest to you (see addresses below) and ask them to make a public statement on recent happenings in West Papua. Also send a copy to the Indonesian embassy in your country.
c/o Mr P.J. Kalff,
Chairman Board of Directors
PO BOX 283
1000 EA Amsterdam, Netherlands
Fax + 31 20 6293172
Dear Mr Kalff,
I am greatly concerned about ABN-AMRO's investment in the copper and gold mines in West Papua (Irian Jaya).
Since the start of mining activities, indigenous peoples and other residents of the area around Ertsberg and Grasberg have been protesting against damage to their homeland and livelihood. The situation has been troubled for years. Recently environmental and social consequences of the mining activities of Freeport McMoRan/Rio Tinto have again led to unrest. This unrest follows controversy over a Freeport McMoRan/Rio Tinto compensation ruling, and a deadly incident in which a Freeport vehicle was involved. Intervention by the Indonesian army has resulted in more casualties. Both regional churches and Amnesty International have since expressed their concern over the situation.
Via Friends of the Earth Netherlands I am aware that ABN-AMRO does not want to be involved in controversial projects, and recognizes its own responsibility in relation to investment projects. Therefore I ask ABN-AMRO to clarify its position publicly, for example, in an open letter to Freeport/Rio Tinto and the Indonesian authorities, or by placing an advertisement in an Indonesian national newspaper. In this ABN-AMRO should:
- express concern over social unrest as a result of Freeport/Rio
- ask Freeport/Rio Tinto to clarify its involvement in the violence;
- express support of the letter written by West Papuan churches concerning selective granting of compensation by Freeport/Rio Tinto; and
- indicate that social and environmental improvements are essential to win support from local people.
I look forward to your reply.
Jalan ir Haji Juanda 23 24 (PO BOX 2950)
Jakarta 10029, Indonesia (10001)
fax + 62 21 2313222
61 Thread Needle Street
PO BOX 503
London EC 2P2HH UK
Fax + 44 171 5882975
135 South La Salle Street
Chicago Illanois 60603
Fax + 1 312 6068435
Please, CONFIRM READING! to: Irene Bloemink Earth ALARM email@example.com
THE scale of one of the world's greatest manmade environmental catastrophes was becoming clear last night as poisonous fog blanketed up to 70 million people in six south-east Asian countries and scientists warned of long-term climate disruption.
Many hundreds of deaths had been reported throughout the 100 square mile area, even before an Indonesian airliner crashed in the smog yesterday claiming 234 lives. In the past few days, the death toll from hunger in the Indonesian province of Irian Jaya alone has risen to more than 275.
Satellite pictures showing that the uncontrollable fires have spread to one million hectares of deep peatlands, which may burn underground for decades, have rebounded round the world. With visibility down to fewer than 20 yards in many cities and cars having to use their headlights in the middle of the day, Indonesia has declared a national disaster and Malaysia a state of emergency.
Although some rain fell yesterday in the region, dense smog has reached Thailand and the southern Philippines. Hoteliers as far north as the Thai resort island of Phuket, 900 miles from the nearest fires in south Sumatra or Kalimantan, say they are now enveloped by grimy smog.
Antara, the official Indonesian news agency, reported that fires in Irian Jaya have swept into Papua New Guinea and burnt down a camp inhabited by 600 Indonesian political refugees. President Suharto of Indonesia yesterday ordered four million civil servants to join nearly 10,000 people already fighting the fires, although it is accepted that only heavy monsoon rains will eventually extinguish them. These are two months late and the World Meteorological Organisation has warned that the drought affecting the whole region may continue until next year.
An international relief effort is getting under way. The World Bank yesterday offered emergency help as Japan, France, Finland, Germany and Canada sent teams of pollution experts and firefighters. The Indonesian air force and navy are preparing to help with cloud-seeding efforts to induce rain. The United Nations is sending an emergency evaluation team and 150,000 face masks for children. The price of surgical masks has soared everywhere in the region. There are plans to import four million from the United States to distribute to people in central Sumatra.
The health emergency is growing. Although the winds changed last night temporarily relieving some areas, 15,000 Malaysians and 45,000 Indonesians, most of them children and elderly, have been treated for smog-related illnesses.
Air pollution was yesterday double the legal safety limit in nine Thai provinces. The smog has triggered health alarms in Singapore and Brunei. The smog is adding to the heavy air pollution that already exists in most of the region's cities.
Missionaries yesterday claimed that many deaths could have been avoided if fires in the area had not been allowed to burn out of control, preventing aircraft from bringing in relief.
The long-term ecological implications are not well understood. In Geneva, the director-general of the Swissbased World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), Claude Martin, described the situation as a "planetary disaster". Scientists warned that the effect on long-term global warming and immediate weather patterns throughout the world could be immense. The effect of the fire, especially if it takes hold in the peatlands, is to release a massive amount of carbon dioxide which causes global warming," said Richard Lindsay of the University of East London. "The long-term threat to climate worldwide and health is significant."
The lowland tropical rain forests of Sumatra and Kalimantan are among the most biologically rich ecosystems on earth. The potential loss to science of whole species would be felt worldwide, while the haze would hit the health and economies of the whole region, he said.
Much of the Indonesian forests lie on up to 10-20 metres of now burning peat. Clay Rubec, of the International Mire [Peatlands] Organisation, which advises governments on peatland fires said yesterday that more than one million hectares of peat swamp forest could be destroyed within six months.
Peat fires burn deep underground for years and are almost impossible to control on a large scale. "This fire is a greater threat to human health than the Kuwaiti oil fires and harder to put out." Elephants, tigers and deer were potentially at risk but the effects would be felt throughout the food chain of the region because trees and plants would not pollinate.
The air pollution could further complicate economic problems in the region, analysts warned yesterday. A whole range of industries from tourism to electronics and palm oil production, could be affected, said Liew Yin Sze, head of research at the Singapore investment house J M Sassoon. Mr Liew said the electronics industry, a crucial driver of the economies of Singapore and Malaysia, could also be hit. "You might see increased costs in clean-room industries like semiconductors," he said.
An agricultural analyst with another investment house in Singapore said world palm oil prices could rise in 1998-99. Meanwhile, the Indonesian government has blamed 176 plantation companies for causing the fires, but has taken action against only one.
British environment groups yesterday accused western consumers of contributing to the fires because of the consumption of tropical hardwoods. Tony Juniper, of Friends of the Earth, said: "The disaster unfolding is inextricably linked to the behaviour of countries in the developed world who consume vast quantities of wood." Last year the UK imported 201,650 cubic metres of tropical timbers from Indonesia. More than 1 million hectares of Indonesian forest are lost to logging every year.
Meanwhile, everyday life is severely affected. 'It isn't simply the zest and joy of life that's denied by the sustained smog," said one mother in Kuala Lumpur. "It weakens you from all frontiers - lack of sunlight, eyes smarting all the time, skin itch, and the choking like it is a banshee from purgatory."