Papuans upset over lack of input on Indonesian mining deal

Indigenous groups kept out of discussions on controversial contract extension
Papuans upset over lack of input on Indonesian mining deal

This August 2013 photograph shows a view of one of Freeport McMoRan's mining complexes in Indonesia's Papua province. (Photo by Olivia Rondonuwu/AFP)

Government leaders and activists in Indonesia's Papua province said talks on extending the contract of the U.S.-based PT Freeport McMoRan mining company ignored input from the local community.

Executives of the company, which has operated in Papua since the 1960s, met Indonesian President Joko Widodo on Oct. 26, with the president expected to sign the extension while visiting the United States later in the week.

Papuan leaders said local people were kept out of mine negotiations, while the government also ignored the negative environmental impact mining has had on the region.

Lamadi de Lamato, spokesman for Papuan Gov. Lukas Enembe, told ucanews.com on Oct. 23 that the provincial government was also kept out of mine discussions.

"We're so confused. Freeport actually is in Papua, but we were not invited to speak on this renewal plan. Our voice barely received attention," he said.

Father Neles Tebay, coordinator of the Papuan Peace Network, called for the contract to be suspended, due to the fact that local residents were not involved in the negotiations. 

"People in Papua, which has rights to the land, are not involved. Papuans, especially the Amugme tribe … feel that they are treated unfairly," he said.

Father Tebay said Papuans might support the mine if Freeport would reinvest in the local community.

"Papuans are still poor and PT Freeport seeks economic gain. They need a plan that provides economic benefits to Papua," he said.

Meanwhile, Victor Yeimo of the West Papua National Committee says there should be no contract extension.

"The people of Papua have long swallowed the bitter pill of this company's presence," he said.

"Trillions in money has been taken out, however the people of the area are destitute. Residents who scavenge for gold waste are shot," he said.

Father John Djonga, an activist priest, called on Widodo to stand up to the mining company and protect the rights of the indigenous communities.

"Do not let Freeport govern the country," he said.

Widodo's chief of staff Teten Masduki indicated in a recent statement that the extension would be approved; the Indonesian national budget depended on revenues from the Freeport deal, he said in a report aired by CNN Indonesia.

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Freeport also was seeking to expand its copper operations by building a second US$2 billion copper smelting facility.

Abednego Tarigan, executive director of the Indonesia Forum for the Environment, in a July 29 Jakarta Post op-ed said the environmental damage caused by the mining company "should be addressed before any decision to extend Freeport's contract is considered."

"The Indonesian government always bows to pressure in matters of environmental responsibility," Tarigan said.

 

* The story was modified on Nov. 2 to delete a reference that the Freeport McMoRan mining operations were Indonesia's largest revenue generator.

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