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.

Background Information

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 children’s right to protection.

The New Orleans-based parent company, Freeport McMoran Copper and Gold owns  around 81% of the mine. Because of the company’s 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: menlh@cbn.net.id

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:  walhi@walhi.ord.id or indah@walhi.ord.id
Forwarded by:

Friends of the Earth (FoE) Australia www.foe.org.au