UCA News


Papuans upset over lack of input on Indonesian mining deal

Indigenous groups kept out of discussions on controversial contract extension

Support Asia's largest network of Catholic journalists and editors
Support Asia's largest network of Catholic journalists and editors
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)

Share this article :
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.

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.

Support UCA News...

As 2020 unfolds, we are asking readers like you to help us keep Union of Catholic Asian News (UCA News) free so it can be accessed from anywhere in the world at no cost.

That has been our policy for years and was made possible by donations from European Catholic funding agencies. However, like the Church in Europe, these agencies are in decline and the immediate and urgent claims on their funds for humanitarian emergencies in Africa and parts of Asia mean there is much less to distribute than there was even a decade ago.

Forty years ago, when UCA News was founded, Asia was a very different place - many poor and underdeveloped countries with large populations to feed, political instability and economies too often poised on the edge of collapse. Today, Asia is the economic engine room of the world and funding agencies quite rightly look to UCA News to do more to fund itself.

UCA News has a unique product developed from a view of the world and the Church through informed Catholic eyes. Our journalistic standards are as high as any in the quality press; our focus is particularly on a fast-growing part of the world - Asia - where, in some countries the Church is growing faster than pastoral resources can respond to - South Korea, Vietnam and India to name just three.

And UCA News has the advantage of having in its ranks local reporters that cover 22 countries and experienced native English-speaking editors to render stories that are informative, informed and perceptive.

We report from the ground where other news services simply can't or won't go. We report the stories of local people and their experiences in a way that Western news outlets simply don't have the resources to reach. And we report on the emerging life of new Churches in old lands where being a Catholic can at times be very dangerous.

With dwindling support from funding partners in Europe and the USA, we need to call on the support of those who benefit from our work.

Click here to find out the ways you can support UCA News. You can make a difference for as little as US$5...
UCAN Donate
Thank you. You are now signed up to our Daily Full Bulletin newsletter
Support UCA News

William J. Grimm, MM


Union of Catholic Asian News

"As Pope Francis has said, we live not so much in an era of change as in a change of era. That is especially true in Asia and for the churches of Asia. UCA News is the dedicated, Asia-wide news and information service for the Church in Asia and we need your help to maintain the service."