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Freeport Mine ‘Terrible’ Sight From Space

Freeport mine destruction ‘terrible’ sight from space

By Ali Bell - Story and image courtesy of Te Waha Nui Online


After decades of unrestricted mining by the Freeport McMoran company in West Papua, the environmental and physical devastation is “terrible”.

This was the message at a weekend seminar on West Papua held at AUT University.

The destruction caused from the Grasberg copper and gold mining site is “so terrible you can see it from space”, says human rights spokesperson and law student Cameron Walker.

Image: Freeport mine at Mt Jaya, Papua, as seen from space.

Rivers used for fishing have been destroyed, or are being destroyed, says Walker.

Maire Leadbeater, spokesperson of the Indonesian Human Rights Committee (IHRC), has reported that New Zealand Embassy staff from Jakarta visited the Freeport McMoran mine and commented privately on the degree of environmental destruction.

Norway has chosen not to invest its oil fund in the Freeport mine, because of “its serious abuse of environmental standards” as reported in the latest edition of the IHRC newsletter cited by Leadbeater.

The mine is destroying the 4884m Mt Jaya. Already one billion tonnes of waste has been generated from the mine. Norway says Freeport has used a natural river system for waste disposal, and also Lake Wanagon. The waste flows down river systems into the lowlands, leaving a trail of destruction and the river system is now “dead”.

Wetlands, forests destroyed

Large areas of wetlands and rainforest have been destroyed, states the IHRC.

In December 2005, the New York Times carried out a special investigative report detailing the physical devastation and human rights abuse, and the benefits to the Indonesian government of the mine – about two per cent of the GDP in 2005.

Freeport McMoran is a US-based and owned company.

Walker says the company was given “free rein” in 1967 to take West Papuan land from the people, to resettle villagers and compensate them only for the buildings on the land.

The company was allowed to write its own contract with Indonesia, which had been given colonial rights to West Papua in a United Nations-US diplomatic arrangement in the 1960s.

Freeport pays Indonesian military and police for “security from angry locals”, says Walker.

In 1977, some West Papuans cut the copper slurry pipe, and Operation Tumpas, or Operation Annihilation, followed.

Walker says this operation used cluster bombs and other military tactics.

Tactics used to wipe our resistance

West Papuan Baptist leader Rev Socratez Sofyan Yoman, who also spoke at the seminar, says these tactics were used to try to wipe out the cause of the resistance – the West Papuan people.

In March, there was a big solidarity protest against Freeport and students are still in hiding, afraid to return to university in the face of large scale military brutality.

Joe Collins, of the West Papuan Society in Australia, says one of the strategy statements to come out of the seminar is that there should be a focus on human rights for West Papua, and that “the hidden conflict be more seen throughout the world”.

“Stop them killing Papuans. Stop them killing us, says Rev Yoman”

  • For more on this issue, see… Freeport mine destruction ‘terrible’ sight from space - Te Waha Nui Online
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