Tag Archives: freeport

Amungme leader warns Freeport it could be closed down

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The Grasberg mine has damaged surrounding river systems, such as the Ajikwa river above [West Papua Media
JUBI, 19 January 2012

In view of the fact that there has been no response from Freeport -Indonesia or Freeport McMoran, ‘I, Anthonius Alomang, as executive-director of Lemasa, the Association of Amungme tribal people, herewith warn Freeport in Mimika district that we may close you down.’

‘As director of Lemasa, I declare on this day that we will close Freeport down,’ Alomang told a group Amungme people, addressing them at the meeting hall in Mile 32, Kuala Kencana, Timika.

He said that this was not just a joke but a very serious matter because already more than a month has elapsed without the Freeport management making any response to the statement issued by Tom Beanal, the Torei Negel.

The reason why a statement was made by the Torei Negel himself, said Alomang, speaking before representatives of the Kamoro Tribe and other tribes in Papua as well as representatives of various Indonesian groups in Mimika, is that ever since Freeport has been present here, what has been happening is quite unacceptable to the people who hold customary rights to the land.

The people who were already poor and have become even poorer, and they have seen that there has been not a shred of compassion in the practices towards the local people. This includes murders by unaccountable groups as well as corruption practised by the Freeport management who have never been called to account for all this.

As previously reported by Jubi on 7 December last year, the Torei Negel, Tom Beanal issued a nine-point statement expressing his attitude regarding the ten crucial issues that have been experienced by the Amungme people ever since PT-FI first arrived in Mimika.

Yet, up to this day, there has been no response whatever from the management of Freeport or from McMoran.

But no details are yet available about what these measures might be.

RA: Freeport mine strike ends (interview with West Papua Media)

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The Grasberg mine has damaged surrounding river systems, such as the Ajikwa river above [West Papua Media
  • Updated December 28, 2011 07:58:41

Thousands of workers at Freeport mine in Indonesia have ended their three-month strike for better wages, after a signing a pay-rise deal with the company.

Production at Freeport‘s giant gold and copper mine in Papua has been at a standstill since workers began their industrial action. The workers are expected to return to work this week, but there are reports the Papuan police chief will charge protest organisers with sedition.

Presenter: Melanie Arnost
Editor of West Papua Media Nick Chesterfield

CHESTERFIELD: It’s seen to be a bit of a bitter sweet victory because whilst there have been ceremonies to enable peaceful resolution, the company, Freeport has given very little ground on the original demands and the Indonesian police in Papua have decided that they’re also going to charge the union leaders and the organisers with sedition.
ARNOST: What does this mean for the workers?
CHESTERFIELD: Well sedition is basically the charge under which everyone in West Papua gets charged if they raise the Morning Star flag. What it means is basically between 10 to 15 years in prison, and it’s not exactly a good faith act by the police. So there’s a lot of people who are going to be fearful. It’s designed by the police to stop anyone from taking legitimate industrial action by making out that it’s treasonous.
ARNOST: And how many workers are we talking about that look like they’ll be charged?
CHESTERFIELD: Well at the moment it’s looking at the union organisers, certainly the heads of the union and key organisers who’ve been manning the blockades and doing the education out there and doing what union organisers do on the ground during strikes. Whether or not they charge everyone, this is a question that the workers certainly want to have answered, and also one of their conditions in returning to work is there’s going to be no sanction on them for going on strike. There’s no real gains in wage justice for any of the workers there, I mean they were initially going for quite a significant pay rise, and in the end they’re getting less than seven dollars an hour for their efforts.
ARNOST: So why did they decide to end the strike?
CHESTERFIELD: At the end of the day companies like Freeport and the Freeport mine which is the most profitable mine on earth, it’s the largest gold and copper mine on earth. It doesn’t want to pay its workers, not its indigenous workers anyway. There’s an understanding simply that there was no willingness on behalf of management to even budge even a few cents. So any money is better than no money.
ARNOST: So these seven dollars, is that what they were originally being paid in the first place?
CHESTERFIELD: Look they were originally being paid about a dollar 50 to three dollars an hour. So certainly there have been a few increases but it’s far less than what they’re asking for and there’s no real guarantees of safety and security, and especially security from these ongoing attacks by unknown forces, which the police and military seem to not want to solve.
ARNOST: When do you expect the workers will return to work?
CHESTERFIELD: It could be any day but nothing is entirely guaranteed until we get the pictures from the ground really.
ARNOST: It’s said to be the longest in recent Indonesian history this strike, so do you predict something like this happening again?
CHESTERFIELD: Look certainly there’s an appetite for industrial action in Indonesia and certainly in West Papua. Certainly the Freeport Mine’s got to be separated in some way obviously from the independence struggle in West Papua, but there’s certainly issues of corporate behaviour and corporate impact on surrounding environments and surrounding social dislocation that workers have really switched on to. You can’t unlearn what you’ve gone through in a situation like that, so certainly there’s more of a willingness to take this kind of action. And they’ve certainly learnt a lot of lessons from it.

Strike at Freeport settled, even as mine’s scars linger

by John M. Miller | December 17, 2011

This week the union and the U.S.-based mining corporation Freeport-McMoRan announced a settlement to a three-month long strike at its Grasberg mine in West Papua. Workers are expected to be back at work within days. Although the strike has been settled, Freeport and its activities remain controversial in West Papua and Indonesia.

The workers’ union settled for a 40 percent wage increase over two years, as well as additional housing and other benefits. The workers will also receive wages lost during the strike in the guise of a one-time three month “signing bonus.” Prior to the strike, which began on September 15, workers at Grasburg were the lowest paid at any Freeport facility. The company also has mines in the U.S., South America and the Congo. (A two-month strike at Freeport’s Cerro Verde mine in Peru was suspended at the end of November pending government mediation.)

Juli Parorrongan, a spokesperson for the union, said that pre-strike monthly wages range from $361 to $605 a month. He expressed dissatisfaction with the agreement to the Jakarta Post:

However, we decided to agree on the increase because we have to consider the humanitarian aspect, given that the striking workers have not been paid by Freeport for the last three months. We were forced to agree to end the strike, but this is not the end of our struggle.

Workers had blockaded roads in the area at key points and were accused of cutting the pipeline which carries mining concentrate to the port from where it is loaded and shipped for processing. By the end of the strike, the mine was operating at 5 percent of capacity.

Two striking worker was killed and others were injured on October 10 when police opened fire at a large demonstration in Timika, the town near the mine. Attacks by unknown gunmen on a vehicle carrying police and Freeport personnel led to more deaths and injury to two others. Such attacks along the road to the mine are a relatively common occurrence, and it is not clear if the latest ones were related to the strike. These assaults against security and Freeport personnel are believed to result from conflicts among police, military and Freeport security personnel feuding over the spoils from extortion targeting Freeport, as well as conflict over freelance gold-mining efforts by local people. While these attacks are often blamed on poorly armed guerrillas fighting for independence, local police recently said that the shooters were “well trained.”

The strike by 8,000 employees at the controversial open pit mine halted production costing the Indonesian government $8 million per day in taxes, royalties and dividends, which helped to broker an end to the strike.

In the U.S., Occupy Phoenix, the East Timor and Indonesia Action Network, the IWW and United Steelworkers (USW) demonstrated in support of the strikers at Freeport’s Phoenix, Arizona headquarters in late October.

The USW, which represents workers at Freeport’s Chino mine in New Mexico, urged the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate reports that the company was making illegal payments to the police in West Papua. In a letter to Justice’s Criminal Division, the union wrote:

The Indonesian police have recently been quoted in the Indonesian media admitting that they accepted millions of dollars from PT Freeport Indonesia to provide security for the miner’s operations in Papua, Indonesia, and the National Police Chief Gen. Timur Pradopo referred to the payments as “lunch money” paid in addition to state allocated security funding, stating “It was operational funding given directly to the police personnel to help them make ends meet.”

Human rights groups estimated that the payments raised salaries of the police near the mine between a quarter and one half. The payments are illegal under Indonesia law, where official corruption is a major problem. They are illegal in the U.S. if not reported. The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act also “bans companies from paying foreign officials to do or omit to do an act in violation of his or her lawful duty,” the union wrote. It called the payments bribes:

intended to persuade the personnel to act in defense of Freeport-McMoRan’s interests even when those interests conflict with the police and military personnel’s lawful duty to protect Indonesian people…

Five years ago, the company was investigated for payments allegedly made to the Indonesian military The company reported $1.6 million in payments in 2008 to provide a “monthly allowance” to police and soldiers for security at the mine.

In addition to its labor strike, Freeport faces challenges on a number of other fronts.

The Grasburg mine has been an unmitigated environmental disaster. The disposal of millions of tons of tailings and other mine waste has decimated forests and destroyed an entire river system. Local inhabitants have been marginalized by an influx of outsiders. The company’s human rights and environmental practices have long been criticized by major institutional investors. Norway’s government pension fund, divested its Freeport holdings in February 2006. In 2008, it divested from Rio Tinto, a minority owner of the mine. The deep scars from the mining operation can be seen from space.

Last year, the about 90 Amungme tribe members, who live near the mining complex, filed a lawsuit arguing that Freeport had seized their lands illegally. According to the Jakarta Globe, they are “seeking $32.5 billion in material and non-material damages for the alleged illegal acquisition of its ancestral land” in an Indonesian court.

Despite its poor labor, environmental and human rights record, Freeport sometimes receives high marks from those who monitor “corporate socially responsibility.” Recently, Corporate Responsibility Magazine had named Freeport as the U.S.’s 24th-best corporate citizen. “How is this possible?” askedDavid Webster, an assistant professor of International Studies at the University of Regina in Canada. “Well, the survey’s methodology seems to pay no heed to human rights performance.  Only human rights rhetoric matters.”

Unsurprisingly, the Freeport mine is a lightening rod for the pro-independence movement in Papua. The company gained its mining permits in 1967, as Indonesia­with U.S. backing­was undermining West Papuan aspirations for self-determination. (While West Papua and Indonesia share a Dutch colonial heritage, West Papua was not included in Indonesia on independence.) At the time, Indonesia was administering the territory under a U.N. mandate brokered by the U.S. in preparation for an act of self-determination (which was a farce when it finally took place two years later). Under these circumstances, many West Papuans view the granting of mining rights by the Suharto dictatorship as illegal and the outflow of mining profits as theft that has left indigenous Papuans impoverished. These grievances have fueled broad sentiment for greater control over these and other resources, and Timika is a hot bed of pro-independence sentiment.

Meanwhile, the U.S. government has staunchly defended Freeport since it first arrived in West Papua. In Jakarta, the U.S. embassy:

has conspired with Freeport management to defeat legal challenges as well as media and Congressional inquiries into human rights violations and other illegal acts carried out by security forces under Freeport pay and direction. In 2002, it conspired with Freeport and with the Indonesian government to limit and delay an investigation of an attack that cost the lives of three teachers, including two from the U.S.

The Freeport strike brought renewed attention to the company and to West Papua. It came at a time of increasing unrest and repression in West Papua over its political status. The strike also came at a time of increasing labor unrestthroughout Indonesia.

In mid-November, Occupy Jakarta’s general assembly adopted a resolution on Papua. Key points are withdrawal of security forces from the region and an end to violence to against Papuans. It called for Freeport to be brought to “justice for human rights violations, environmental damage and violence towards workers,” and putting the future of the Freeport mine in the hands of its workers and local people.

John M. Miller is National Coordinator of the East Timor and Indonesia Action Network, which co-publishes the monthly West Papua Report.

http://wagingnonviolence.org/2011/12/strike-at-freeport-settled-even-as-mines-scars-linger/
Website: http://www.etan.org

People who have been shooting near Freeport are well trained: Police

JUBI, 7 December 2011

According to the police in Timika, the people involved in the shootings that have occurred during the past month or so in the vicinity of Freeport are certainly well-trained.

‘Our investigations in the places where these shootings have occurred reveal that they have been using firearms. The result of the shootings aimed at vehicles in which the victims were driving suggests that they are well trained in the use of firearms,’ said the head of the Criminal Research Unit, AKP Toni Sarjaka, speaking to journalists in Timika.

Pressed to explain whether these people were well trained, he said: ‘Well yes, indeed. In some cases a single shot hit the driver of the car, and killed him instantly.’

During the month of October, there have been four victims of shooting in the Freeport area and in some cases, the victim was killed by a single shot.’

He went on to say that the police were still investigating the killings and were currently speaking to witnesses.

In addition to those who have been killed, a number of people have been injured.  But as yet, the police have not been able to identify the persons who carried out the shootings.

How the National Government Is Encouraging Papua to Break Away

Exceptionally powerful article appearing the Jakarta Globe: a must read for all Indonesians who are concerned for Papua, either for or against.
Bramantyo Prijosusilo | November 22, 2011

Transparency and accountability are universally accepted as the cornerstones of good governance. With neither present in Papua, we can be sure that the natural riches of the region will never come to benefit local communities, but will rather bring about the so-called “resource curse” in the form of economic, cultural, social and political strife and ecological disaster.

The massive destruction caused by Freeport-McMoRan, the American mining conglomerate, can now be witnessed by anyone with an Internet connection thanks to Google Earth. The continuous stream of stories of torture and murder that leak out of the region is proof that people are unhappy and that the national government is acting less than honorably there.

What the central government claims about goings-on in Papua cannot be trusted because its claims can be disproved immediately. Since the act of free choice in 1969 (called “the act of no choice” by Papuans resisting Indonesia’s “occupation”), the western half of Guinea island has been covered by a “batik curtain.” Foreign independent journalists are banned from working there freely, as are international NGOs.

However, with the advance of information technologies and the fact that more and more Papuans are receiving modern education, the contemptuous treatment of indigenous people at the hands of the nation’s police and military is becoming more and more difficult to conceal. Gleaning information on Papua from the Internet it becomes obvious that there are powerful forces at play in Papua that are bent on reaching the point of no return — where either all Papuans must be exterminated, or a second and more honest “act of free choice” is conducted, for the world to witness the true aspirations of the people of Papua in terms of their relationship with the Indonesian state.

The powerful forces bent on forcing Papuans to separate from Indonesia are none other than the central government, especially its military and police force.

Since the brutal murder of Papuan leader Theys Eluay a little over 10 years ago, the world has seen how Indonesia has yet to reform its approach to the issue of Papuan independence. As we near Dec. 1 — the date that Papuans consider to be their independence day — the world is fearfully expecting to witness more state violence against Papuans peacefully expressing their aspirations. Indeed, in the past few months we have witnessed attacks on journalists and peaceful protestors, including the still unclear circumstances surrounding the latest fatal shooting of eight gold prospecting civilians in the Paniai district.

On the issue of the Freeport workers on strike demanding better pay, the world witnesses how the central government’s actions toward the Freeport strikers differs from the government of Peru’s reaction toward the same sort of strike at a Freeport mine there. While the government of Peru visibly takes the role of a mediator that holds the interests of its own people foremost, Indonesia appears to unashamedly play the role of Freeport’s guard dog, and without hesitating to release live ammunition on its own people.

The recent armed police and military raids of Papuan students’ dormitories in Java and Bali are an indication of what is likely to come on Dec. 1. The recent Papuan voices that have leaked out thanks to the Internet indicate that there are plans for at least a “Morning Star” flag rising in Papua on that date. Although the government has cracked down hard on similar events in the past, it is unthinkable to imagine that the people of Papua have been cowed into submission by these repressions. Just as Indonesian youth defied the Dutch colonialists in the early 20th century and continued to raise the “Red and White,” so will the youths of Papua. After all, most Papuan youth leaders were educated in Indonesia, so they fully understand that perseverance pays and aspirations for independence cannot be stifled by force. Yhe more Indonesia uses force to keep its hold on Papua, the stronger its independence movement will become.

Papuan activists can also see how Islamists in Indonesia can actively work to destroy the country not only with impunity, but also with the tacit support of the state and members of the government. The Islamist party, Hizbut Tahrir, for example, openly agitates for the fall of the republic to build a global Islamic caliphate in its place, but the authorities tend to aid and support it rather than take action to hinder its activities. Islamists in the country openly work for the resurrection of the age of the Islamic caliphs, or at least work toward their version of Shariah being enshrined as state law, but even though these activities are in blatant contempt of our constitution, the government has never done so much as lift a little finger in defense of the republic and its principles in the face of these orchestrated attacks.

Therefore it is natural that activists from Papua feel that they are being continuously discriminated against, for they receive the harshest treatment for the simple activity of raising a flag.

So who is it that is working hardest to compel Papua break away? Are the people of Papua to blame for objecting to having their sacred lands ripped apart by corporations making profits for shareholders far away? Are they to blame if they do not trust Indonesia’s capacity or intent to develop the country along the lines of the constitution?

If Indonesia wants to keep Papua as part of the family, it needs to clean up its act, especially in curbing Islamist treason and protecting minorities. It also needs to open up Papua to the world and come clean and apologize for the wrongs it has inflicted on the people there. As Dec. 1 approaches, we can expect that the national government will try to further alienate Papuans to a point where the only way forward will be through a sea of blood.

Bramantyo Prijosusilo is a writer, artist and broadcast journalist in East Java.