West Papua (called Irian Jaya by the expansionist, military-backed Indonesian regime) is rich in natural mineral and precious metals resources, making it a target for foreign trans-national corporations such as Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold Inc.
The country and its peoples were annexed by the Indonesians in the 1960s thru a cynical political ploy that went unquestioned by the Australian government and the UN. The Netherlands made claim to the region and commenced missionary work in nineteenth century. The region was incorporated into the Indonesia in the 1960s, and has faced a violent separatist movement since then. Following the 1998 commencement ofreforms across Indonesia, Papua and other Indonesian provinces received greater regional autonomy. In 2001, “Special Autonomy” status was granted to Papua province, although to date, implementation has been partial. Until 2003, the region was administered as a single province, and it 2003 it was split into the provinces of Papua and West Papua.
Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold Inc., (FMCG, NYSE: FCX) often called simply Freeport, is the world’s lowest-cost copper producer and one of the world’s largest producers of gold. Its headquarters are located in the Freeport-McMoRan Center in downtown Phoenix, Arizona. Freeport is the largest publicly traded copper and molybdenum producer in the world. It mines and mills ores containing copper, gold, molybdenum and silver for the world market. Its subsidiaries include PT Freeport Indonesia, PT Irja Eastern Minerals and Atlantic Copper, S.A.
Since 1973, Freeport has operated the world’s largest gold mine, located in Indonesia’s Papua province.
In 1982 Freeport Gold Company was the world’s largest gold producer, producing 196,000 troy ounces (6,100 kg) of gold in its first full year of operation.
The Grasberg mine, FMCG’S crown jewel, soon became a source of violent trouble and terrible publicity, which continues today. It is also the world’s most profitable mine. The Grasberg mine’s tailings have “severely impacted” more than 11 square miles (28 km2) of rainforest, according to a 1996 Dames & Moore environmental audit. The report, endorsed by Freeport, also estimates that during the life of the mine 3.2 billion tons of waste rock – a great part of which generates acid – will be dumped into the local river system. Overburden (waste rock) from the mine has polluted a nearby lake due to acid mine drainage.
Claims of severe environmental damages caused by the company’s engagements in the Grasberg mine in Indonesia has led The Government Pension Fund of Norway, the world’s largest pension fund, to exclude Freeport-McMoRan from its investment portfolio, after a recommendation from the fund’s ethical council.
Freeport-McMoRan is a signatory participant of the Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights.
In 2003 Freeport acknowledged it had been paying the local Indonesian military and police to handle the Grasberg mine’s security operations. Freeport argues that this is necessary to provide security to its employees, both local and foreign. The Indonesian security forces commit systematic human rights violations, particularly against environmental groups and supporters of a return to West Papuan independence as before the Indonesian military seized power in 1969.
In 2005, the New York Times reported that company records showed the total amount paid between 1998 and 2004 amounted to nearly US$20 million, distributed among both officers and units, with one individual receiving up to US$150,000. The company response was that there was “no alternative to our reliance on the Indonesian military and police in this regard”, and that the support provided was not for individuals, but rather for infrastructure, food, housing, fuel, travel, vehicle repairs and allowances to cover incidental and administrative costs.
The Australian government provides funding and training to members of the notorious Indonesian military (Kopassus) and special Police Force unit Detachment 88, who are responsible for the brutalisation and murder of West Papuan separatist dissidents and their families. There is a general silence by the Australian government and corporate controlled media regarding the plight of the West Papuan peoples.