Tag Archives: Indonesia

Gold mine protester tried for spreading communism as red scare sweeps Indonesia

Indonesian Muslims shout slogans during a rally against communism outside the Parliament in Jakarta on September 29. Photo: AP

Jewel Topsfield & Amilia Rosa | Sydney Morning Herald | October 12, 2017

An anti-gold mine protester has become the latest person to be tried under draconian anti-communist laws in Indonesia.

The case comes as the spectre of a resurgent red peril has once again inflamed the country more than 50 years after the leftist movement was brutally crushed.

In circumstances that local media have described as reminiscent of Suharto’s authoritarian New Order regime, Heri Budiawan could face up to 12 years in jail for spreading communism.

Prosecutor Budhi Cahyono said banners made by protesters against a gold mine in Banyuwangi in East Java on April 4 contained a hammer and sickle drawing in red spray paint like that used by the defunct Indonesian Communist Party, the PKI.

Accused of spreading communism: Heri Budiawan. Photo: Amilia Rosa

“The defendant led the activities of the people protesting and did not stop or prevent the placement of the banner with the hammer and sickle symbol identical to the PKI symbol, knowing that communism is forbidden in Indonesia,” Mr Budhi said in the indictment in the Banyuwangi District Court.

“The defendant’s act was against the law … in regards to crimes against the security of the nation.”

But environmental groups claim the gold mine, PT Bumi Suksesindo, is using the communism allegations as a tactic to shut down protests against alleged environmental damage caused by the mine.

The man who filed the complaint to police about the alleged hammer and sickle image in April was the then senior manager of external affairs at the gold mine.

Supporters of Heri Budiawan outside the Banyuwangi District Court. Photo: Supplied

Mr Heri strenuously denied the allegations. “None of the banners we did had hammer and sickle drawings on them,” he told Fairfax Media.

Mr Heri claimed there was no way he would invoke the former communist party in his fight against the gold mine.

Thousands of Muslims staged a rally in the Indonesian capital, protesting the government decree to ban radical organisations and against the alleged revival of communism.  Photo: AP

“I am against the PKI, I don’t want it in Indonesia either. If there was an anti-PKI rally I would join it.”

A surge in anti-communist sentiment and paranoia about the resurgence of the PKI swept Indonesia in the lead up to the 52nd anniversary of the murder of six army generals on September 30.

The PKI was blamed for the aborted coup, which triggered the purge of between 500,000 and one million people with suspected leftist leanings in a dark chapter of Indonesian history that remains deeply sensitive.

Last month police were forced to fire tear gas and water cannons to disperse anti-communist protesters who falsely claimed an event at the Jakarta Legal Aid Institute Foundation was a meeting of communist supporters.

Military chief General Gatot Nurmantyo ordered screenings of the 1984 propaganda film Pengkhianatan G30S/PKI (Betrayal of the Communists), a blood thirsty depiction of the death of the generals at the hands of the communists.

Even Indonesian President Joko Widodo – who was targeted by a smear campaign falsely claiming he was the son of communists during the last election campaign – tweeted on October 1: “Don’t let the cruelty of the PKI reoccur.”

“Although the PKI was violently obliterated in the mid-60s and communism is a dead letter globally which has no popular support in Indonesia, it is alive and well as Indonesia’s number one bogeyman,” Dr Tim Lindsey, the Director of the Centre for Indonesian Law, Islam and Society at Melbourne University wrote recently.

“Communism remains the label of choice to smear progressive opponents.”

Mr Heri is convinced the case against him has been made up because of his fight against the gold mine, BT Bumi Suksesindo, which he claimed had destroyed the local forest and and was responsible for mud floods.

“It’s all made up. I know I am not guilty,” he told Fairfax Media. “I am not an activist, just a villager. The mine is destroying our livelihood.”

The mine could not be reached for comment.

The trial is continuing in the Banyuwangi District Court.

Fandi, from the Indonesian Forum for the Environment (WALHI) in East Java, said this was not the first time locals had been criminalised to stop the fight against the mine.

He said the PKI symbol might be ancient history but it was an effective weapon. “It is to divert attention from the issues with the mine,” Fandi told Fairfax Media. “The area was downgraded from protected forest to an industrial zone to allow the mine to operate on it.”

Australian National University Associate Professor Marcus Mietzner said that rather than an indication of hardening anti-communist stances in Banyuwangi, this appeared to be a convenient pretext for interests associated with a large corporation to support cases against those rejecting its projects.

“Some of the other events – especially the attack on the Jakarta Legal Aid Institute Foundation – are more closely related to the ideological and political dynamics ahead of 2019,” Dr Mietzner said.

“Obviously, the goal is to somehow associate Jokowi with communism – a move he has countered by portraying himself as being as staunchly anti-communist as his critics. As a result, pro-democracy and leftist NGOs are cornered from two fronts: the alliance of Islamist and pro-military forces on the one side, and the Jokowi government’s attempts to appear anti-communist on the other.”

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Grasberg mine’s riches still a distant glitter for Papuan communities

Panorama from high up at the Grasberg gold and copper mine in Indonesian Papua on the island of New Guinea. Photo by Richard Jones/flickr.

Hans Nicholas Jong | Mongabay | 13 October 2017

  • Through its local subsidiary, US-based Freeport-McMoRan operates the world’s largest and most profitable gold mine in Indonesia’s Papua province.
  • Changes to Indonesia’s mining laws earlier this year raised hopes that Papua’s indigenous people might finally get a stake in the mine.
  • With negotiations between the government and the company snagging on key issues, activists say these hopes may be premature.

High hopes that the world’s biggest gold mine will finally bring meaningful benefit to the community for which it has for decades been a source of contention have been deflated as negotiations hit a wall.

Freeport McMoRan Inc. (FCX) and the Indonesian government are currently hashing out the details of a long-term agreement for an extension of the company’s contract to operate the giant Grasberg gold and copper mine in Papua province, due to expire in 2021.

Freeport announced in August that it had agreed to divest a 51 percent stake in its Indonesian subsidiary, PT Freeport Indonesia (PTFI), in which it currently holds a 90.64 percent stake, following sustained pressure by the government to reform a mining sector long seen as not doing enough to benefit local communities or contribute to the national economy.

As part of broader changes to Indonesia’s mining law, the government has required that all mining firms build smelters in-country; convert their existing contracts into more flexible permits; and, for those with a foreign majority shareholder, divest a 51 percent stake in their operations to local partners within a decade of the mines coming into production.

Freeport’s announcement was cheered by Indonesians, many of whom believe the country has been getting the short end of the stick in its business dealings with foreign miners.

The indigenous inhabitants of Papua, in particular, welcomed the announcement, hoping the redrawn contract would finally address the impact of the company’s mining operations on the local community and improve their welfare.

But as negotiations between Freeport and the government stall over the terms of the divestment, the role Papuans will play in determining the future of the mining project is once again shrouded in uncertainty.

A map of the Grasberg mine in Papua. Image by AK Rockefeller/flickr.

Sharing the wealth

In 2016 alone, Freeport’s Indonesian operations generated $3.8 billion in revenue for the parent company. Yet despite having the world’s most profitable gold mine, Papua remains Indonesia’s poorest province, where 28 percent of the people live below the poverty line. It also has some of the worst infant mortality and literacy rates in Asia.

To ensure that some of the mine’s revenues trickle down to Papuans, Energy and Mineral Resources Minister Ignasius Jonan has said that up to 10 percent of PTFI’s shares should be reserved for the Papuan government and indigenous Papuan people.

But Freeport has balked at the details of the government’s plan to manage the divestment. In a letter dated Sept. 28, the company expressed strong disagreement with the valuation, timing and structure put forward by the government.

The government has proposed acquiring a majority stake in PTFI by the end of 2018, but Freeport wants the divestment to take place in stages over a period of several years. It also wants the first batch of shares to be offered publicly through the stock exchange, rather than allocated directly to the government.

The price is another sticking point. Last year Freeport offered to divest a 10.64 percent stake in PTFI for $1.7 billion, which would give a valuation of around $8.1 billion for a 51 percent stake. Jonan, however, has called for a much lower figure. Conflating FCX’s market capitalization on the New York Stock Exchange and its share of revenue from PTFI, the minister argues that the fair value for a 51 percent stake in the Indonesian operator should be $4 billion.

Any hopes for immediate benefits as a result of the divestment, particularly the promised 10 percent stake for Papuans, have diminished as a result of the impasse.

Maryati Abdullah, the national coordinator of mining sector watchdog Publish What You Pay Indonesia, said such disagreements should have been foreseen. “The contentions in the negotiation process were predictable. So any claims of victory after the divestment agreement [in August] were premature, given that there are still many details that haven’t been agreed upon,” she told Mongabay. “As long as there’s no written agreement, there’s a high chance that things could still change.”

A woman from the Korowai tribe, who live in southeastern West Papua in the Indonesian Province of Papua. Photo by Mari/flickr.

‘Our nature is damaged’

Community leaders in Papua argue they should be involved in the ongoing negotiations, regardless of whether Papuans get a share in PTFI.

A group representing various indigenous tribes affected by PTFI’s mining operation met with Jonan last month to discuss the issue.

“We hope we will be involved in the negotiation of the details of the agreement and that a good deal will be given be to the local people,” said Odizeus Beanal, a representative of the Amungme tribe, whose highland home is where Grasberg is located. “Our hope in the future is for an agreement to be reached for indigenous people.”

Also affected by PTFI’s operations are the Kamoro, a lowland people whose ancestral territory is the site of Freeport’s mining town of Timika. The Amungme and Kamoro have traditionally subsisted on sustainable agriculture, fishing and hunting. But the opening of the mine in 1967 disrupted their lives, stripping them of their rights to 100,000 hectares (247,100 acres) of their ancestral lands. They have been further displaced and marginalized by migrants from elsewhere across Indonesia drawn to the mining boomtown.

Indonesia’s National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM), a state-funded body, said earlier this year that PTFI had never compensated the Amungme and the Kamoro as the original stewards of the land where it operates. It characterized Freeport’s concession as a land grab.

“The land that could be used to live on has been contaminated with chemicals,” Daniel Beanal, a Kamoro elder, told presidential staffers at a meeting earlier this year. “Our nature is damaged. The mountain is filled with holes. I’ve never received anything from Freeport.”

Beanal argued it would be best for PTFI to cease operations, a call echoed by another Kamoro elder, Nicolaus Kanunggok.

“Our aspiration is clear: to close and audit [PTFI] first. We’re not asking for a share, not even a single percent. Close the operation first, and then audit [them],” Kanunggok said.

The giant Grasberg open-pit copper and gold mine in Indonesian Papua on the island of New Guinea. US-based mining giant Freeport McMoRan, which operates the mine, was also granted an exemption from the 1999 Forestry Law. Photo by Alfindra Primaldhi/Wikimedia Commons

Audit findings

A recent report by Indonesia’s Supreme Audit Agency (BPK) identified a wide range of irregularities in PTFI’s operations and its current contract.

Eleven of the issues were attributed to weak management by the government, while 10 pointed to violations of regulations by PTFI. These include indications of reckless mining, and the dumping of mining waste into rivers, forests and the sea. An earlier review by the agency estimated the environmental damage from the company’s operations at 185 trillion rupiah ($13.7 billion).

PTFI spokesman Riza Pratama said the company manages its waste in accordance with the terms set out in the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) approved by the government in 1997. “We are operating in accordance with our mining contract and [mining waste processing and disposal] has been regulated in it,” he told Mongabay.

Noak Kapisa, the head of Papua’s environmental agency, said PTFI should pay for the environmental damage identified by the audit agency. “If the damage is done inside Freeport’s areas, then it has to fix it,” he told Mongabay. Kapisa also called on the government to revoke the company’s EIA, which is in the process of being renewed, if PTFI refuses to make amends for the environmental damage it has caused.

The BPK also found that Freeport had used 4,536 hectares (11,208 acres) of protected forest area without obtaining the proper permits, costing the government $20 million in lost fees between 2008 and 2015.

Riza declined to comment on this finding when asked by Mongabay.

View from the Grasberg open-pit copper and gold mine in Indonesian Papua on the island of New Guinea. Photo by Richard Jones/flickr.

Pitfalls and progress

As things stand, there is no guarantee of more environmentally sound mining operations once Freeport has relinquished a 51 percent stake in PTFI.

That’s because Freeport has insisted on retaining operational control of its subsidiary until 2041, even if the government holds the majority of PTFI shares. Should the miner get its way, Indonesia would have no leverage in the deal, according to PWYP Indonesia advocacy manager Aryanto Nugroho.

For instance, he argues, Freeport could refuse to pay dividends to the government by saying it needs the money to cover expenses like building a smelter, which it is required to do under the new mining law.

“Even if the government held the majority of shares, if FCX still retained operation control, what could we do? So there are traps like that,” Nugroho told Mongabay.

The government must ensure that Freeport pays all its obligations, including for environmental damage, before the divestment is done, says Henri Subagiyo, executive director of the Indonesian Center for Environmental Law (ICEL), an NGO.

“If the obligations are paid before the takeover, there won’t be many problems. But if the obligations [are held over until] after the takeover, then who would bear the burden?” Subagiyo told Mongabay. “If the government has the majority of shares, then the government would have the obligations [to pay for the damage]. If Papuans get a stake, they would bear the risk as well.”

Activists have urged the government to use the BPK’s findings as a basis in the negotiations with Freeport.

“These problems have to be probed further and discussed during the renegotiation process of Freeport’s mining contract,” said PWYP Indonesia’s Abdullah. “Environmental problems are no less important than other problems in the renegotiation, which are mainly financial, such as tax, divestment and the obligation to build smelters in Indonesia.”

President Joko Widodo has said the government is seeking a win-win solution as quickly as possible. But with neither side seeing eye to eye on the key issues, it remains unclear when the negotiations will conclude.

Additional reporting by Basten Gokkon.

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Global Petition for West Papua

Free West Papua Campaign

There is a very significant grassroots campaign that is currently taking place in West Papua, and around the world.

In January the Free West Papua Campaign launched a petition calling on the UN to urgently act on the situation in West Papua, and we’d like to inform you & invite you to take action too.

As you likely know, West Papuans have been fighting for independence against Indonesia since 1963, in what has become one of the world’s longest-running military occupations of the 21st century. Hundreds of thousands of West Papuans have lost their lives in the occupation, and reports of Papuans being shot, imprisoned, kidnapped and tortured are still a weekly occurrence. Indonesia continue to enforce strict regulations on media and NGOs, so much of what happens continues to avoid international attention.

Just Last week 17 people were shot, including children, in Deiyai. One person was killed and others are still in recovery. Furthermore, Between 30th June and 6th July, over 130 West Papuan people were arrested, including children, and many of them tortured, by the Indonesian police for peaceful actions. The Indonesian government has denied these reports but the ICP Human Rights report for further information.

The global petition for West Papua has been run for the last six months and has so far collected over 150,000 names of international solidarity for West Papua. 

The Indonesian government have reacted by criminalising and banning this petition and the host website, Avaaz, across the country, and have arrested West Papuans for signing it. West Papuan deputy leader, Yanto Awerkion, of the KNPB in Timika, is currently still being detained by Indonesian police, and is facing charges of treason, and 15 years in jail for collecting signatures for the petition.

Despite this, tens of thousands of West Papuans have been meeting in secret to sign this petition. Compare these numbers to the 1026 (0.2 % of the population) who were forced at gunpoint to raise their hands in favour of being annexed with Indonesia in 1969, during the illegal “Act of Free Choice”. There was NO vote, West Papuans have never exercised their right to self-determination under international law.

This petition carries the message directly from the people of West Papua, to the UN asking them to review this right that they have been calling for for 55 years. Therefore, please join us in ‘One voice of International solidarity for One voice from West Papua’, and help the West Papua voices be heard at the UN this August.

The petition will be run until August 30th, when the Swim for West Papua team will swim the petition 69 kms, taking approximately 30 hours, across Lake Geneva, handing the petition with our names on it directly in to the UN headquarters. 

For more information please do not hesitate to contact us office@FreeWestPapua.org or go to our website www.freewestpapua.org

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The $100bn gold mine and the West Papuans who say they are counting the cost

Grasberg mine in the Indonesian province has been a source of untold wealth for its owners, but local communities say it has brought poverty and oppression

The delta of West Papua’s Aikwa river, on Kamoro tribe land. Papuans claim tailing sediment from the mine has suffocated the fish and shrimp on which their diet and economy are based. All photographs: Susan Schulman

The delta of West Papua’s Aikwa river, on Kamoro tribe land. Papuans claim tailing sediment from the mine has suffocated the fish and shrimp on which their diet and economy are based. All photographs: Susan Schulman

Susan Schulman | The Guardian | 2 November 2016

In 1936, Dutch geologist Jean Jacques Dozy climbed the world’s highest island peak: the forbidding Mount Carstensz, a snow-covered silver crag on what was then known as Dutch New Guinea. During the 4,800-metre ascent, Dozy noticed an unusual rock outcrop veined with green streaks. Samples he brought back confirmed exceptionally rich gold and copper deposits.

Today, these remote, sharp-edged mountains are part of West Papua, Indonesia’s largest province, and home to the Grasberg mine, one of the biggest gold mines – and third largest copper mine – in the world. Majority-owned by the American mining firm Freeport McMoRan, Grasberg is now Indonesia’s biggest taxpayer, with reserves worth an estimated $100bn (£80bn).

But a recent fact-finding mission (by the Brisbane Archdiocese’s Catholic Justice and Peace Commission) described a “slow-motion genocide” (pdf) taking place in West Papua, warning that its indigenous population is at risk of becoming “an anthropological museum exhibit of a bygone culture”.

grasberg-map

Since the Suharto dictatorship annexed the region in a 1969 UN referendum largely seen as a fixed land grab, an estimated 500,000 West Papuans have been killed in their fight for self-rule. Decades of military and police oppression, kidnapping and torture have created a long-standing culture of fear. Local and foreign journalists are routinely banned, detained, beaten and forced to face trialon trumped-up charges. Undercover police regularly trail indigenous religious, social and political leaders. And children still in primary school have been jailed for taking part in demonstrations calling for independence from Indonesia.

“There is no justice in this country,” whispered one indigenous villager on condition of anonymity, looking over his shoulder fearfully. “It is an island without law.”

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Dozy had not set out to find gold in 1936; his goal was to scale the region’s highest glacial peak. But his discovery sparked the interest of Freeport Sulphur – later to become Freeport Minerals Company and then, through a 1981 merger with the McMoRan Oil and Gas Company, Freeport McMoRan – whose board of directors included the well-connected Godfrey Rockefeller (serving from 1931 until the early 1980s) and Henry Kissinger (1988-1995).

Today, indigenous tribes such as the Kamoro and the Amungme claim their communities have been racked with poverty, disease, oppression and environmental degradation since the mine began operations in 1973.

“We are a coastal people, and we depend on the environment,” says the Kamoro’s chief, Hironimus Urmani, in Tipuka, a lowland village down-river from the Grasberg mine. “Nature is a blessing from God, and we are known by the three Ss: sago [trees], sampan [canoes] and sungai[rivers]. But life is very difficult now.”

Urmani motions to the river opposite, languishing green and motionless. He claims that tailing sediment from the mine has raised the riverbed, suffocating the fish, oysters and shrimp on which the Kamoro diet and economy are traditionally based. A 2012 report from Earthworks and Mining Watch Canada asserts that mine waste from Grasberg has “buried over 166 square kilometres of formerly productive forest and wetlands, and fish have largely disappeared”.

Although most Kamoro still try to eke out a living fishing and foraging for food, they struggle to find paid work, says Urmani. “We need to earn money. But now we face major competition from non-Papuan migrants.”

Locals fear that the government’s controversial transmigration programme, which resettles Indonesians from high-density islands such as Java to low-population areas, is wiping out their population completely. Indigenous Melanesian Christians – they comprised 96% of the population in 1971 – now make up a 48% minority, with numbers expected to fall to 29% by 2020 if migration rates continue.

Ethnic Papuans will make up just 29% of the population by 2020
west-papua-demographics

Clashes between the indigenous Christians – and migrant Indonesian Muslims – have also resulted in riots, fires and injuries.

“Land has been taken away, directly by Freeport … and indirectly, as the Indonesian settlers have appropriated it,” says Dr Agus Sumule, professor of agricultural socio-economics at the province’s University of Papua.

“The stresses [on indigenous people] are intense,” says Sumule. “They have been very negatively impacted.”

The Indonesian government signed over to Freeport the right to extract mineral wealth from the Grasberg site in West Papua in 1967. A 2002 report from the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) details that land agreements were not negotiated with the Amungme until 1974, a year after the mine opened, and with the Kamoro in 1997.

The compensation paid for Kamoro and Amungme land has been mainly in the form of communal benefits, such as the building of homes, schools and places of worship. The IIED report notes, “Perceptions of land rights and historic compensation claims are a continuing source of dissatisfaction and conflict in the mining area.”

Recent census data shows Papua’s GDP per capita at $3,510, compared to the Indonesian average of $2,452. Yet Papua has the highest poverty rate in the country, nearly three times the national average. It also has the highest infant, child and maternal mortality rates in Indonesia, as well as the worst health indicators, and the poorest literacy rates.

The scale of destitution is best observed from the highland Amungme village of Banti, just 20 miles down from the Grasberg mine.

The river Aikwa, near Banti, is turned thick and silver with the tailings from the mine. Here, artisanal miners pan the tailings for gold.

The river Aikwa, near Banti, is turned thick and silver with the tailings from the mine. Here, artisanal miners pan the tailings for gold.

Estimates from Earthworks suggest that Freeport dumps as much as 200,000 tonnes of mine waste, known as tailings, directly into the Aikwa delta system every day. The practice has devastated the environment, according to Earthworks and locals, turning thousands of hectares of verdant forest and mangroves into wasteland and rendering turgid the once-crystal waters of the highlands.

The tailings from the Grasberg mine are so rich with ore that Papuans walk for as long as a week to get here. Crowding the length of the river and the delta wasteland, thousands of unlicensed panners shore up small sections to slow the river’s flow and dig into the thick sediment on the side.

Although some of these panners are located within Freeport’s official mining operations, they are not evicted or controlled in any way, they said. Instead, they claim they sell their findings to the police and military who work as security on the mine. (An anonymous Freeport source also confirmed this).

One of the panners, Martine Wandango, 25, bends over her pail of water as she filters out rocks and searches for ore. “You can only survive with money, and you can only find money from gold,” says Martine, who followed her husband to the delta 15 years ago by walking 60 miles over the mountains from their remote highland village.

The Aikwa river, which used to provide the Kamoro people with the staples of their existence.

The Aikwa river, which used to provide the Kamoro people with the staples of their existence.

“I work really hard as I want to give my children better lives, so they can go to school. But it isn’t enough, so she helps me here mining,” says Martine of her daughter, nine, who swings a gold pan in her hands. “On a good day, I can get three grammes, which I sell either to the police or [to buyers] in Timika.”

A tiny village when Freeport arrived here 40 years ago, Timika is now a boom town dotted with bars, brothels, gold-processing shops and various military personnel. Under Indonesian law, Freeport is a designated “strategic industry”, which mandates that external security for the mine, its access roads and its pipelines all be provided exclusively by Indonesia’s security forces. Freeport has never been implicated in any human rights abuses allegedly committed by the Indonesian military in Papua.

Freeport McMoRan, based in Phoenix, Arizona, did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

The company’s website defends its method of disposal of tailings at Grasberg, managed by PT Freeport Indonesia (PTFI), an affiliate company: “PTFI’s controlled riverine tailings management system, which has been approved by the Indonesian government, uses the unnavigable river system in the mountainous highlands near our mine to transport tailings to an engineered area in the lowlands where the tailings and other sediments are managed in a deposition area.”

A 2009 report by the company says it utilises levees to contain tailings in the deposition area, and that the tailings management programme costs Freeport McMoRan $15.5m (£12.7m) each year. According to the report, company monitoring of aquatic life in the rivers found that fish and shrimp were suitable for consumption, as regulated by Indonesian food standards, while water quality samples met Indonesian and US Environmental Protection Agency drinking water standards for dissolved metals. In a 2011 BBC report on alleged pollution in the area surrounding Grasberg, the company says that the tailings management method was chosen because studies showed the environmental impact caused by its waste material was reversible.

Elsewhere on its website, the company says: “We are committed to respecting human rights. Our human rights policy requires us (and our contractors) to conduct business in a manner consistent with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and to align our human rights due diligence practices with the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UN Guiding Principles).”

The company also emphasises its work with indigenous people in West Papua. A 2015 Freeport McRoRan report on working towards sustainable development said: “PTFI has engaged with indigenous Papuan tribes for decades, including through numerous formal agreements to promote workforce skills training, health, education and basic infrastructure development … In 2015, PTFI continued to evaluate the effectiveness of alternate options for Kamoro community members whose estuary transport routes are impacted by sedimentation associated with the controlled riverine tailings management system. Provision of smaller sized boats, in addition to 50 passenger vessels, for route flexibility as well as additional local economic development programmes were identified as additional mitigation measures during the year.”

Back in the area surrounding the Grasberg mine, many Papuans, struggling for work, find themselves pulled into the bar and sex industries that cater to the miners, particularly around the highland village of Banti. Here brothels and bars line up side by side, allegedly with help from the Indonesian military, who are said to supply sex workers and alcohol, according to a Freeport source who wished to remain anonymous.

Indigenous chiefs have watched as a newfound promiscuity has brought sexually transmitted infections that have ravaged their communities. “Traditional Papuan culture forbids free sex, but alcohol makes our communities vulnerable,” says the Amungme chief, Martin Mangal. “And brothels make it easy to contract HIV.”

HIV rates in West Papua are of “epidemic” proportions, according to the UN, 15 times higher than anywhere else in Indonesia. Driven almost entirely by unsafe sex, HIV is also far more prevalent among indigenous Papuans. Yet the existence of only one hospital – built by Freeport – means that most people, particularly those in remote highland villages, don’t get the help they need.

Late last year, the Indonesian president, Joko Widodo, claimed he was willing to work towards a “better Papua”: “I want to listen to the people’s voices.”

However, human rights violations have actually increased since Widodo took power, according to Indonesia’s Commission for the Disappeared and Victims of Violence (Kontras), which has logged 1,200 incidents of harassment, beatings, torture and killings of Papuans by Indonesian security forces since his election in 2014.

The Indonesian government did not respond to multiple requests for comment. The country’s military has consistently denied any wrongdoing in Papua.

Despite everything, there have been small glimmers of hope. This summer, Dutchhuman rights law firm Prakken D’Oliveira submitted a formal legal complaint against Indonesia to the UN Human Rights Council, accusing the government of “long-term, widespread and systematic human rights violations” and the “complete denial of the right to self-determination of the people of West-Papua”.

Later this year, West Papua is expected to be granted full membership of theMelanesian Spearhood Group, an important sub-regional coalition of countries including Fiji, Vanuatu and Papua New Guinea.

The Brisbane commission, which warned of the risk of genocide, is calling on Indonesia to allow Papua, once and for all, the right to self-determination.

Yet some fear the opportunity for change in Papua is long gone.

“Is healing even possible?” asked Professor Agus Sumule, shaking his head. “It could be too late.”

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Global Conservation Body Votes to Ban Marine Mine Waste Dumping

Tailings waste from the mine flows through the Porgera Valley in Papua New Guinea’s remote Enga Province. Photo: Emily Allen

Tailings waste from the Porgera mine in Enga Province. Photo: Emily Allen

Shreema Mehta | EARTHWORKS | September 12, 2016

Mining companies move staggering amounts of earth to extract small quantities of minerals like gold and copper. Much of this waste is contaminated with heavy metals and chemicals used to extract metals from ore. Dealing with the resulting waste is a constant problem — for the industry, environment and nearby communities.

In select places around the world, notably Indonesia, Papua New Guinea — and now, Norway —  mining companies handle this problem by simply dumping their waste into rivers, lakes and oceans. In fact, mining companies are dumping more than 180 million tonnes of hazardous mine waste each year into the world’s rivers, lakes and oceans.

This week, thousands of activists, academics and policymakers from around the world are gathering in Hawaii to attend the IUCN World Conservation Congress to discuss the state of global natural resource conservation, including the issues of marine mine waste disposal.

IUCN, or the International Union of Conservation in Nature, is a global network of over 1,300 government and civil society organizations. Every four years, the IUCN passes motions during this Congress that, like the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, set priorities for the global conservation community.

This year, IUCN members almost unanimously approved a resolution calling for an end to the disposal of mine waste into marine and coastal environments, as well as an end to current sites of marine mine waste disposal.

As noted by the resolution, most national governments do not allow marine tailings dumping, given both the severity of its impacts and available alternatives.

Dumping mine tailings into oceans is destructive to marine life. Tailings are the waste leftover when the desired mineral, such as gold or copper, is separated from its ore. This waste is an often toxic sludge of waste rock and processing chemicals that can contaminate water, smother aquatic plants, and poison fisheries on which coastal communities depend.

Earthworks has documented some of the egregious examples of marine mine waste disposal in a report, Troubled Waters. The toxic mine waste has led to reduced populations of fish and bottom-dwelling organisms in Indonesia and Papua New Guinea, and local groups in both countries found higher concentrations of toxins such as arsenic or mercury in some surviving fish. In Norway, tailings have been found to be dumped into designated national salmon fjords, which support huge fishing and tourism industries.

But coastal communities around the world are fighting back. Norway, Papua New Guinea and Indonesia have seen communities rally against mines that are polluting the coastal waters on which they depend.

Just this past February, more than 100 local activists conducted a powerful act of peaceful civil disobedience to protect majestic fjords from toxic mine waste. The protesters blocked test drilling from Nordic Mining, which proposes to build a rutile mine that would dump waste into the Førde fjord. Norwegians of all types — from fishers to student activists — have united in opposition to companies proposing to dump tailings into fjords.

Norway was among the only countries to oppose the IUCN’s ban on marine mine waste dumping.

The world’s oceans should not be considered dumping grounds for the mining industry. Mine tailings dumping is an egregious practice that should have been phased out decades ago, but instead, the practice continues – and is being considered in new, fragile marine environments like fjords and intact coral reefs.

The almost unanimously approved IUCN resolution shows wide consensus among civil society, governmental and academic organizations that dumping tailings into oceans and rivers is environmentally destructive and unacceptable. National governments, particularly those of Norway, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea, should respond to this signal of public will to by banning the dumping of tailings into oceans. Mining companies should take a stand too — by publicly committing to ban marine dumping for future operations and phasing out the practice at existing operations.

It’s time to bring the mining industry into the 21st century and end marine mine waste disposal.

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Rio Tinto operating in the middle of West Papua genocide

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April 27, 2016 · 2:57 pm

Why Is Mine Waste Being Dumped Directly Into the Ocean?

“Indonesia, Papua New Guinea and Norway lead the way using DSTP at their mines”

The Los Pelambres Mine in Chile proposes to dump wastes into the ocean.

The Los Pelambres Mine in Chile proposes to dump wastes into the ocean.

Terry Odendahl, Roy Young and Gary Wockner** | Eco Watch | March 4, 2016 

Picture a 4-foot diameter pipe running into the ocean filling the offshore canyons at a rate of 160,000 tons per day. The pipe runs from an enormous gold and copper mine directly into the Indian Ocean. The pipe is filled with mine “tailings”—a toxic sludge of heavy metals, rock and coagulants mixed in with the pulverized mine wastes that spreads and covers the seabed dramatically impacting plant and animal life and polluting the surrounding water. That is the Deep Submarined Tailings Disposal (DSTP) system at Newmont Mining’s Batu Hijau copper and gold mine in Indonesia.

Although Batu Hijau is the biggest mine that is using DSTP, at least 16 mines in eight countries are also using DSTP, with others to follow. Indonesia, Papua New Guinea and Norway lead the way using DSTP at their mines. In Chile, mines in the mountains north and east of Santiago are proposing to run pipes 50-100 kilometers so they can dump into the canyons of the Pacific Ocean off of the Chilean coast. The enormous Los Pelambres Copper Mine in Chile proposes to use DSTP in the future, discharging its wastes directly into the ocean.

The 4-foot diameter pipe dumping mining wastes into the ocean at Batu Hijau mine in Indonesia.

The 4-foot diameter pipe dumping mining wastes into the ocean at Batu Hijau mine in Indonesia.

While you might think this mining disposal would be limited to the unregulated developing world, Norway actually leads with the most mines using this polluting disposal system. The mining wastes are dumped into Norway’s pristine fjords, filling much of those fjords over time. One such mine has prompted a backlash by Norwegians who, working with Friends of the Earth International, have started the Save The Fjords campaign.

As stated on their website, “In April 2015, the Norwegian government gave its final permission for an open-pit mine in a mountain called Engebo. The mine will dump more than 250 million tons of chemicals and waste into the pristine Forde fjord.”

The Forde Fjord in Norway would be partially filled with mining wastes.

The Forde Fjord in Norway would be partially filled with mining wastes.

The Norwegian proposal sparked the “biggest civil disobedience actions in newer Norwegian history” where hundreds of people protested and 80 people were arrested blocking the mining action and trying to save the fjord. Through Global Greengrants Fund, a grant has been given to Friends of the Earth International to help inform Norwegians about the Engbo mine and its ocean disposal.

wegian protestors rally against filling their fjords with mining wastes.

Norwegian protestors rally against filling their fjords with mining wastes.

It could make sense in some cases to dispose of mining wastes in the ocean, but only if those wastes were non-reactive and only if the toxic heavy metals in the wastes are removed. In addition, if ocean disposal does take place, it should be closely monitored and regulated and it should only happen where local people are not dependent on the marine environment for food. Proposals to use DSTP along the coastline of Chile threaten the Humbolt Current System (HCS) which sustainably produces almost 20 percent of the annual harvest of fish biomass. The HCS is the most productive marine ecosystem on the planet. Just four mines would dump one million tons of mine waste into the HCS every day, one gigaton every three years.

Over the last 25 years, international regulatory bodies including the 1996 London Convention and Protocol by the International Maritime Organization and the 1992 Oslo Paris Convention have attempted to set minor regulations for DSTP, but those standards are mostly being ignored.

In the very few places where monitoring has occurred, studies have measured dramatic decreases in the amount of benthic meiofauma (animals less than I millimeter long) as well as all forms of benthic macrofauna (larger than 1 millimeter), which, along with phytoplankton, form the basis of the food chain in marine environments. Almost no research has occurred about the consequences of dumping 100’s of millions of tons of mine wastes at current DSTP sites. This phenomenally destructive pollution is virtually unregulated across the planet’s marine environments.

** Terry Odendahl, PhD, is president and CEO of Global Greengrants Fund. Roy Young is the former executive director of Global Greengrants Fund and founder of Nature’s Own. Gary Wockner, PhD, is an environmental activist, writer and consultant to Global Greengrants Fund.

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