Freeport: West Papua's Ok Tedi
Like the infamous Ok Tedi mine in neighbouring Papua New Guinea, the giant Freeport gold and copper mine has inflicted appalling environmental damage and ignored the rights of the indigenous peoples whose land it have plundered. Friends of the Earth Indonesia (WALHI) have launched a campaign for an independent audit of the mine operations and a renegotiation of the terms under which the mine operates. WALHI sees the presence of a democratic government in Indonesia as an opportunity for change to the mine which has managed to dodge the spotlight and its responsibilities for over thirty years. Please respond to this action request.
Indonesian activists call for help on Freeport
For more than 33 years, the mine at Freeport in West Papua has caused ecological destruction and the violation of human rights. But the authoritarian government of Soeharto repressed any attempts by the general population to protest against the mine.
According to Friends of the Earth Indonesia (WALHI) the new government lead by Gus Dur (President Abdurrahman Wahid) represents an opportunity to solve the problems posed by Freeport. However, despite the creation of democratic structures, there is as yet no action by the government to improve the situation.
As a result of this inaction by the Indonesian government, WALHI says that there is no more time to wait and have called for an international response on the mine. In particular, they are calling for:
An independent audit of the operations of the mine; and
Re-negotiations on the contract of work of the Freeport Indonesia mine. They are asking for support from overseas NGOs and individuals in the form of letters to the President and other key leaders of the Indonesian government.
They launched a letter writing campaign on April 10 and have organised actions and events in Jakarta and elsewhere in Indonesia.
Freeport Indonesia Company has run a gold and copper mine on the lands of the Amungme and Komoro people for more than 30 years. At least five mountains have been mined and this has resulted in massive environmental destruction. Freeport dumps 200,000 tonnes of tailings into the Ajkwa River each day. These tailings, which contain copper and other heavy metals, and the tailings (which mix to form heavy sediment) have damaged thousands of hectares of mangrove and sago forest. In the mining area itself where the waste rock is stored, there has been dangerous acid mine drainage. It is estimated that Freeport will leave a legacy of 2.7 billion tonnes of waste.
Freeport has been accused of being an accomplice to human rights abuses perpetrated by Indonesian soldiers against villagers. In a 1998 assessment of the mines operations, Project Underground, a US-based mining watchdog, accused Freeport of the following human rights concerns: violation of the right to self-determination, violation of the right to life, disappearances and arbitrary arrest, violation of the right to be free of fear, and violation of childrens right to protection.
The New Orleans-based parent company, Freeport McMoran Copper and Gold owns around 81% of the mine. Because of the companys inability to respect Indonesian and domestic legislation, environmental and human rights groups have been forced to seek support from outside the country.
WALHI is calling for an independent audit. This is because the first contract of work (COW) was signed by General Soeharto in 1967 and was improper because at that time Papua was not a part of Indonesia. The second COW was signed in 1991. It was pushed through because Freeport found new gold deposits and wanted to raise the production up to 300,000 tonnes per day. This contract did not adequately address environmental issues.
Since then there has been a number of serious incidents at the mine. There was the bursting of a dam at Wanagon Lake in 1998, the detection of acid mine drainage from the waste rock, copper contamination of molluscs in the estuary of the Ajkwa and other rivers, amongst other issues.
It should also be noted that Freeport only pays the Indonesian government a royalty of 3% for gold and silver and 3-9% for copper. There continue to be violations to the human rights of local people, including reports of torture, intimidation and heavy military presence.
To take action:
It will make a great difference if you are able to send a letter of insistence. Use the following format. Give your name, institution/ organisation and address. Express your concerns with the mines operations (further information can be found at <www.moles.org/ProjectUnderground/motherlode/freeport/env.html>), and ask the government to institute an independent audit on Freeport Indonesia Company as well as renegotiating the conditions of the contract of Freeport Indonesia company. Your support will be appreciated.
Please address your letters to:
President of the Republic of Indonesia, Abdurrahman Wahid, Jl Medan Merdeka Utara Jakarta Pusat, Indonesia. Fax 62-21-344 2222
Head of Parliament (DPR-RI), Akbar Tanjung, Gedung DPR-MPR Jl. Gatot Subroto Kav. 27 29 Jakarta Pusat, Indonesia. Fax 62 21 571 5637
State Minister of Environment, Sonny Keraf, Jl D I Panjaitan, Jakarta Timur, Indonesia. Fax 62 21 858 0103. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
For further details, please contact:
Indah, WALHI/ FoE Indonesia, Campaign and Lobby Division, Jl Tegal Parang Utara No 14, 12790 Jakarat, Indonesia. Fax 62 21 794 1673, Email: email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org
Friends of the Earth (FoE) Australia www.foe.org.au