Tag Archives: West Papua

Papua shooting shuts down Freeport route

West Papuans have long expressed frustration about the environmental destruction caused by the Freeport mine operations in Mimika regency. Photo: MIneral Policy Institute

Reuters | Radio New Zealand | 13 November 2017

The Indonesian unit of Freeport-McMoRan has temporarily shut the main supply route to its Papua mine after a shooting incident, a spokesman says, amid escalating tensions between security forces and an armed Papuan group in the area.

No one had been reported hurt after shots were fired at a vehicle, but the main supply route to the world’s second-biggest copper mine had been temporarily closed while the security situation was assessed, Freeport Indonesia spokesman Riza Pratama said in text message.

Authorities in Indonesia’s eastern province of Papua are delivering food and aid to villages near the mine where security forces say the rebel group has blocked residents’ movement, as security personnel surround the area, a police official said.

Police said a group linked to the Free Papua Movement (OPM) was preventing about 1000 people from leaving five villages near the Grasberg mine operated by the US company.

“We continue to try a persuasive approach and dialogue,” said Viktor Mackbon, police chief of the Mimika area, where the villages are located. Talks with the group would be conducted through public and religious figures in the region, he added.

Officials on Saturday said about 200 police and military personnel had been deployed in preparation to secure the area by force, if necessary.

Police said they will distribute, on Monday, a notice in the area for the “armed criminal group” to give themselves up and surrender weapons.

Reuters could not immediately reach members of the rebel group, the West Papua National Liberation Army (TPN-OPM), to seek comment.

On Friday, the group denied occupying villages near the mine, but said it was “at war” with the police, military, and Freeport.

A resident from one of the villages, Banti, said security forces had blocked access to the village.

Residents he had spoken were not being held hostage by separatists but “are only worried about what might happen if the police and military come into their area”, he said.

A state of emergency has been declared in the area and security stepped up after a string of shootings since August 17 that killed one police officer and wounded six.

Papua has had a long-running, and sometimes violent, separatist movement since it was incorporated into Indonesia after a widely criticised UN-backed referendum in 1969.

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Papua separatists dispute Indonesia claim of hostage taking

The giant Grasberg open-pit copper and gold mine in Indonesian Papua on the island of New Guinea. Photo by Alfindra Primaldhi/Wikimedia Commons

Associated Press | November 10, 2017

A member of an armed separatist group in Indonesia’s Papua region has disputed police claims that it’s holding villagers hostage during a standoff with security forces.

The remote region’s long-simmering insurgency has flared in the past month, with one paramilitary police officer killed and six others wounded in attacks by the National Liberation Army of West Papua. The two sides are also waging a PR war, with police calling the group an armed criminal gang and accusing it of attacks on civilians.

Hendrik Wanmang, who described himself as a commander of the armed group that goes by the Indonesian acronym TNP, said in an interview Friday that Banti and Kimbeli villagers can’t go to an area the separatists define as a battlefield with security forces because it’s unsafe. But otherwise villagers are free to go to their farms and move about as they please, he said.

Police on Thursday said a group of about 100 including 25 gunmen were occupying the two villages and preventing 1,300 people from leaving. Several hundred of the people are migrant workers from the Indonesian island of Sulawesi.

“It’s not true, it’s only the provocation of Indonesian military and police with the aim of damaging our image,” Wanmang told The Associated Press. “People there are safe, both natives and non-natives are free to do activities as usual.”

Wanmang was one of two commanders who signed an Oct. 21 statement warning of unspecified retribution against security forces for alleged brutality against indigenous Papuans.

The letter declared an area near the U.S.-owned Grasberg gold and copper mine as a battlefield.

The mine owned by Phoenix, Arizona-based Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold Inc. is a source of tension in the region due to environmental damage and indigenous Papuans’ resentment at profits from local resources being sent abroad.

A low-level insurgency for independence has simmered in Papua since it was transferred from Dutch to Indonesian rule in 1963. The region, which makes up the western half of the island of New Guinea, was incorporated into Indonesia in 1969 following a U.N.-sponsored ballot of tribal leaders that has since been dismissed as a sham.

Indonesia maintains a heavy security presence in the region and restricts foreign journalists from freely reporting there.

Wanmang said police descriptions of TNP as an armed criminal group and accusations of crimes against civilians were a tactic to discredit the Papuan independence movement.

“We are not a new group, we are not a criminal group,” he said. “We are separatist group who fought for Papua from generation to generation demanding the sovereignty of the people of Papua, demanding Papuan independence, separate from Indonesia.”

Security minister Wiranto, who goes by one name, has asked security officials to peacefully persuade the separatists to leave.

Military commander Gatot Nurmantyo said in a statement Friday that the villagers are “hostages” and the military is conducting surveillance of their villages. With police, it hopes to negotiate a solution but is readying other measures.

“We are also preparing ways that are hard and must be done very thoroughly,” he said. “Currently we are working closely with police and setting up a joint team in handling the problem.”

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Separatist violence threatens to disrupt Freeport’s Indonesia mine

Fergus JensenAgustinus Beo Da CostaSam Wanda | Reuters | 9 November 2017

Armed separatists have occupied five villages in Indonesia’s Papua province, threatening to disrupt Freeport-McMoRan Inc’s giant Grasberg copper mine, which has already been hit this year by labour unrest and a dispute over operating rights.

A state of emergency has been declared and around 300 additional security forces have been deployed to the mining area of the eastern province after a string of shootings since Aug. 17 that killed one police officer and wounded six.

“They want to disrupt Freeport’s operations,” said Suryadi Diaz, a spokesman for the Papua police.

“(Freeport) is rich but they are poor, so they just want justice,” Diaz said, adding that the militants were a splinter group of the separatist Free Papua Movement (OPM).

Freeport Indonesia spokesman Riza Pratama said the company was “deeply concerned” about security and was using armoured cars and helicopters to ferry workers to and from the Grasberg mine in the province’s Mimika regency.

He said attacks had been launched along the road near the town of Tembagapura, about 10 km (6 miles) from the mine, where families of employees – including expatriates – live.

He added that so far there had been no impact on production and shipments from Grasberg, the world’s second-biggest copper mine.

Last year Freeport Indonesia contributed about a quarter of the parent company’s global sales of 4.23 billion pounds (1.92 million tonnes) of copper.

Arizona-based Freeport, the world’s largest publicly listed copper producer, has already been grappling with labour problems at Grasberg and a lengthy dispute with the Indonesian government over rights to the mine.

The mine has also be dogged by major concerns over security due to a low-level conflict waged by pro-independence rebels in Papua for decades. Between 2009 and 2015, shootings within the mine project area killed 20 people and wounded 59.

Papua and neighbouring West Papua provinces make up the western half of an island north of Australia, with independent Papua New Guinea to the east. The provinces have been plagued by separatist violence since they were incorporated into Indonesia after a widely criticised U.N.-backed referendum in 1969.

President Joko Widodo has sought to ease tension in the two provinces by stepping up investment, freeing political prisoners and addressing human rights concerns.

Police spokesman Diaz said around 1,000 local residents and migrant workers who pan for gold in Mimika were being prevented by the separatists from leaving the five villages.

Security forces had entered the occupied area on Thursday, police and military sources told Reuters, but it was not clear if they had been able to evacuate any of the residents.

“Perhaps they feel envious with the company’s presence,” Papua Police chief Boy Rafli Amar told Reuters. “We are trying to maximise protection for the community … because people have been raped and some have had goods stolen.”

In one attack in late October, shots were fired through the windscreen of an ambulance that was ferrying a villager who had just given birth, police said.

The water supply of Tembagapura town had also been contaminated with kerosene, Boy said, but police had not been able to ascertain if it was an act of sabotage carried out by the same group behind the shootings.

“JUST WILD THIEVES”

In a video purported to come from the National Liberation Army (TPN-OPM), part of the OPM group, dated Sept. 29, a guerrilla action coordinator named as Joni Beanal reads out an open letter warning of attacks on Freeport in order “to destroy it”.

“The main reason for the integration of Papua into Indonesia was a conspiracy by America and Indonesia in the interests of mining exploitation by Freeport MacMoran in Papuan soil,” the coordinator said on the video, which was seen by Reuters.

Reuters was not able to verify the authenticity of the video. Papua police spokesman Diaz dismissed the recording as “old”.

Papua Military Commander Major General George Elnadus Supit said the TPN-OPM posed no significant threat and were “just wild thieves who are perhaps being used by a separatist group”.

Concord Consulting group warned that a harsh crackdown on the militant group could “backfire” if security forces were unable to prevent civilian casualties.

“Militants in Mimika will be able to hide among the local population – many of whom share their rejection of Indonesian rule,” the security consultancy said in a note on Wednesday.

Freeport contributed $20 million towards Indonesian government-provided security protecting workers and infrastructure in 2016, about one-third of its local security budget.

The company paid $668 million to the Indonesian government last year in income taxes, royalties and export duties, making it one of the country’s single largest taxpayers.

The Panguna copper and gold mine in neighbouring Papua New Guinea was abandoned in 1989 after a campaign of sabotage by the rebel Bougainville Revolutionary Army.

Echoing the situation in Papua, there was deep resentment among the indigenous Bougainville people about the wealth going to the Papua New Guinea central government and the mine’s then operator, Conzinc Riotinto of Australia Ltd, a forerunner of Rio Tinto .

(Reporting by Fergus Jensen and Agustinus Beo Da Costa in JAKARTA; Additional reporting by Sam Wanda in TIMIKA; Editing by John Chalmers and Alex Richardson)

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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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How West Papua’s gold rush has created a wasteland: lush tropical riverland is laid waste by toxic dumping from the world’s biggest gold mine 

Dead trees affected by gold mine waste, known as tailings are seen in Timika. Indonesia produces over $70billion in gold a year but the local people in West Papua rarely see any of that money

Dead trees affected by gold mine waste, known as tailings are seen in Timika. Indonesia produces over $70billion in gold a year but the local people in West Papua rarely see any of that money

  •  In 1969 Indonesia annexed what had been Dutch New Guinea after a highly ‘Act of Free Choice’ referendum 
  •  Since then the area, whose indigenous people are ethnically similar to Papua New Guineans, has been  swamped by settlers from other over-crowded Indonesian islands
  • West Papua is home to the world’s third largest copper mine and large deposits of gold have also been found
  • But the gold rush at the Grasberg mine has devastated the ecology of the rivers which run through the area
  • Indonesia is accused by an Australian group of a ‘slow-motion genocide’ against indigenous West Papuans 

Chris Summers | Mail Online | 6 February 2017

The western half of the island of New Guinea is rich in minerals, especially copper and gold, but its discovery has been a very mixed blessing for the local people.

It was the Dutch who first discovered minerals on the island in the 1930s and when the Netherlands cut its ties with the colony in the late 1960s it was the presence of the goodies underground which tempted neighbouring Indonesia. 

What had been Dutch New Guinea was annexed by Indonesia in 1969 after a highly questionable referendum, known as the ‘Act of Free Choice’. 

An illegal gold prospector sifts through sand and rock as she pans for gold in Timika. Indigenous tribes in West Papua such as the Kamoro are still trying to get their fair share of the country's wealth

An illegal gold prospector sifts through sand and rock as she pans for gold in Timika. Indigenous tribes in West Papua such as the Kamoro are still trying to get their fair share of the country’s wealth

The indigenous people, who are ethnically Melanesian, mainly Christian, and kinfolk of neighbouring Papua New Guinea, have been oppressed ever since by Muslim Indonesian settlers and Jakarta’s occupying army. 

In 1971 Melanesians made up 96 percent of the population but now they are in a minority and by 2020, if migration rates remain the same, they will be less than three in 10 of the population. 

The West Papuans have also suffered as the land they depend on has been devastated by mining.

A man wearing a Santa Claus hat pans for gold in the Aikwa riverbed. According to reports, the Grasberg mine, owned Freeport McMoran, dumps as much as 200,000 tonnes of mine waste directly into the Aikwa delta system every day, turning thousands of hectares of forest and mangroves into wasteland

A man wearing a Santa Claus hat pans for gold in the Aikwa riverbed. According to reports, the Grasberg mine, owned Freeport McMoran, dumps as much as 200,000 tonnes of mine waste directly into the Aikwa delta system every day, turning thousands of hectares of forest and mangroves into wasteland

Indigenous tribes like the Kamoro say they have been hit by disease, poverty and environmental degradation since operations began at the Grasberg mine in 1973. 

Their chief, Hironimus Urmani, told The Guardian: ‘Nature is a blessing from God, and we are known by the three S’s: Sago (trees), sampan (canoes) and Sungani (rivers). But life is very difficult now.’

The Free West Papua movement has been demanding independence for the territory but has struggled to gain attention in a world distracted by other issues. 

The Grasberg mine is owned by an American firm, Freeport McMoRan, which is based in Arizona. They did not respond to Mail Online’s request for a response.

The Aikwa river flows into the ocean but nowadays it is virtually an outflow pipe of the Grasberg gold and copper mine

The Aikwa river flows into the ocean but nowadays it is virtually an outflow pipe of the Grasberg gold and copper mine

The gold mine waste, known as tailings, has killed off thousands of trees in the Aikwa river delta

The gold mine waste, known as tailings, has killed off thousands of trees in the Aikwa river delta

The Aikwa river is so polluted by mine waste that all the fish in it have long ago died off and the water is completely undrinkable. All it is good for now is gold prospecting

The Aikwa river is so polluted by mine waste that all the fish in it have long ago died off and the water is completely undrinkable. All it is good for now is gold prospecting

Most prospectors are able to obtain around a gram of gold per day, which they can sell for around £25. It takes a keen eye to spot the tiny dots of gold in the murky water

Kamoro tribespeople working on the devices they use to catch gold in the Aikwa river. The Grasberg mine allegedly dumps as much as 200,000 tonnes of mine waste directly into the Aikwa delta system every day, turning thousands of hectares of forest and mangroves into wasteland

Kamoro tribespeople working on the devices they use to catch gold in the Aikwa river. The Grasberg mine allegedly dumps as much as 200,000 tonnes of mine waste directly into the Aikwa delta system every day, turning thousands of hectares of forest and mangroves into wasteland

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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.”

****

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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Rio Tinto operating in the middle of West Papua genocide

rio tinto west papua

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April 27, 2016 · 2:57 pm