Moving Mountains - Chapter 4

By Abigail Abrash and Danny Kennedy

This chapter is drawn from the book from MPI, 'Moving Mountains: Communities Confront Mining and Globalisation',
published by Otford Press. Copies can be ordered here >>

"Our struggle for the protection of the environment (lands, forest, rivers, animals) and people of Irian Jaya from the uncaring mining operations by Freeport is not something that is exaggerated, romantic, or important only for the Amungme and other indigenous people.

When we say that the environment for us is our "mother", we mean that human beings are an integral part of the environment and therefore each one of us has to be mindful of and accountable to the limitations of the environment.

Modern people do not recognize the special relationship of indigenous people to the environment. But for the indigenous people, their view of their natural surroundings teaches them ecologically sound principles to care for the environment in a sustainable way. For the indigenous people, destroying the environment means damaging the lives of human beings.

It is clear that Freeport, with its careless exploitation of the environment for more than 30 years, has damaged 30,000 hectares of rainforest as well as the Ajkwa and Kopi rivers. This environmental damage has affected thousands of local people, primarily the Amungme and the Kamoro, who depend on these natural resources for their food, water and other basic needs, livelihoods and cultural practices.

Freeport is not honest and does not want to acknowledge these problems. The company denies every kind of effort by the local people peacefully to express concern about the company's impact on their lives and the environment."
(From a speech by Amungme tribal leader Tom Beanal, Loyola University, New Orleans, Louisiana, U.S.A., April 28, 1997. Mr. Beanal was the lead plaintiff in a $6 billion class action suit lodged in U.S. Federal District Court against Freeport McMoRan Copper & Gold, Inc., on April 29, 1996).

"Indonesia held West Papua since 1963: the people of West Papua have suffered greatly and continue to suffer up to now.

I myself have experienced torture at the hands of Indonesia and the giant mining company Freeport. I have been kidnapped by security forces including those from Freeport, and carried in a Freeport automobile, and held for one month in a 'bathroom' which was full of human faeces."

(Testimony of Ms Yosepha Alomang, in the briefing on Human Rights in Indonesia and East Timor to the Subcommittee on International Operations and Human Rights, U.S. House of Representatives, on May 7, 1999. Recognized for her work on behalf of indigenous rights in Papua, Ms. Alomang was the recipient of the December 1999 Yap Thiam Hien award, given annually by the Jakarta-based Center for the Study of Human Rights (Yayasan Pusat Studi Hak Asasi Manusia) to human rights defenders "who resist the militaristic and repressive policies of New Order Indonesia." Ms Alomang was the lead plaintiff in a civil lawsuit suing Freeport McMoRan for personal injury and environmental damages; the suit was lodged in the Louisiana state court system on June 19, 1996. In May 1998, Indonesian security forces barred Ms. Alomang from travelling to London, where she was scheduled to speak about human rights abuses and other problems at Freeport to Rio Tinto shareholders and management at the company's Annual General Meeting).

Grasberg in the Global Context
Economic globalisation has been described as imperialism on amphetamines. While the process of European conquest and colonialism in Africa, Asia, the Western Hemisphere and the Pacific took centuries to take control of people and places, today's purveyors of neo-liberalism are moving even more rapidly, acting to incorporate within a few decades all known resources into the global economy through processes of commodification, privatisation and liberalisation.

Since humans began to name their epochs in terms of the minerals they could dig up and the metals they could smelt, the flag of empire often has followed the geologist. Romans of the Bronze Age built an empire in part in the pursuit of copper, critical to their favourite alloy. And in our own era -- whose signature commodity is oil -- we have seen the United States, the remaining global superpower, wage war to ensure access to petroleum half a world away in the Persian Gulf and deploy an imperial foreign policy in many other places to secure continuing petroleum supplies.

Indeed, mineral development comes, more often than not, at the expense of nature and of native peoples. It is often the spark that ignites war and other violent conflict and that irreparably alters the lives, cultures, lands and economies of indigenous landowners in often harrowing, sometimes brutal ways. These linkages among economic globalisation, social conflict, environmental degradation and mining are well-represented by the experience of two indigenous communities in the troubled Indonesian territory of Papua (Irian Jaya/West Papua) and Freeport McMoRan Copper & Gold's mining operations there.

If a mine can be personified, then Grasberg is the Incredible Hulk on cocaine, driven mad by the demands of its owners on the other side of the planet, and set to destroy all in its path. The world's largest operating copper and gold mine has many of the ingredients that make resource development under globalisation problematic: private ownership by absentee landlords who have little connection or shared interest with local people; a rate of production so rapid its consequences cannot be measured let alone mitigated, and extreme physical and political force to allow the wheels of this form of "progress" to turn over smoothly. The Amungme and Komoro peoples - the original indigenous landowners of the areas that now comprise Freeport's mining, infrastructure, and exploration operations areas - have been at the receiving end of these conditions for more than 30 years.

When Freeport arrived in the late 1960s, the Amungme and Kamoro were living subsistence lifestyles in a spiritually significant landscape. They now live amidst a sea of industrial technology that has transformed their homelands into a heavily populated, militarised metropolis, mining pits, hazardous waste dumps, and flooded coastal plains where tropical rainforest once stood. The pace and scale of change are hard to imagine. A deluge of economic migrants to their homelands, and daily deposits into their rivers of more than 200,000 tonnes of mine tailings, have destroyed the life they knew. Meanwhile, Indonesian soldiers and police -- provisioned by Freeport and operating with a mandate to protect the company -- have cracked down ruthlessly on those who have protested the invasion. No good neighbour arrangements were struck; instead the company arrived with its own agenda and prejudices, reinforced by the military power of a corrupt regime in Jakarta, and imposed a way of existence on the Amungme and Kamoro without their consultation or consent.

Freeport signed its first contract of work - to mine the Erstberg copper deposit - two years before the United Nations had recognised Indonesian sovereignty over Papua. The contract was the first signed by a multinational corporation with Indonesia's New Order government, headed by Army General, and later President, Suharto. As would happen in other newly independent countries during the Cold War and beyond, the regime had come to power with the backing and assistance of the U.S. government, including the Central Intelligence Agency, because of its foreign-investment-friendly economic policies.

Indeed, Freeport's history in Indonesia exemplifies the dynamics of multinational corporate investment in the extractive industries and the relationship of these corporate investors with governments. Indeed, Freeport and other U.S. commercial interests in Indonesia's natural resources, low-wage labour and lax regulatory regime have dominated U.S. policy towards Indonesia. This influence has blocked effective U.S. policy approaches to address the Indonesian government's repressive practices and policies. In addition, the U.S. Embassy in Jakarta has provided considerable diplomatic support to these interests in the face of attempts by Indonesian communities and non-governmental organisations -- and more recently the democratically elected government of Abdurrahman Wahid -- to hold companies accountable for their social and environmental impact and allegedly unfair business deals with the Suharto regime.

In 1991, Freeport CEO James Robert ("Jim Bob") Moffett signed a new Contract of Work with Suharto to exploit the huge deposit of gold that Freeport had discovered at Grasberg in 1988. There is circumstantial evidence suggesting that the deal was fraught with the corruption and collusion for which the Suharto regime has become infamous. As the Suharto regime faltered, the company decided to pursue a get-rich-quick approach, obtaining permits to escalate mining throughput at Grasberg. Freeport also sought large injections of foreign capital, provided primarily by Rio Tinto, to finance this massive increase in the rate of mining.

Against this backdrop - and Indonesia's moves to address the concerns of local communities who have been exploited - opportunities now exist for the Kamoro and Amungme, Freeport, the Indonesian government and other actors to resolve the problems associated with Freeport's mining activities. Set in the context of Papuans' intensifying, yet peaceful struggle for self-determination against a colonising government that is backed by the might of the United States, Freeport's hole in the ground is central to the fate of the entire nation.

There is some hope that the human rights and environmental abuses perpetrated by Freeport will be exposed and in some ways ameliorated. But enormous challenges exist for Papuans to be heard and to have a voice in the debate about what now needs to be done. We cannot speak for the Amungme and Kamoro, but we can reflect on the successes and challenges of their struggle to defend their lands and basic rights, and the lessons that the international community should learn from their experience.

History of the Conflict
The Amungme and Kamoro tell us that their conflict with Freeport began in 1967, with the company's confiscation of indigenous communities' territory, without consultation or the consent of local landowners. Seven years after Freeport's arrival, and at the insistence of the Amungme community, a three-way meeting involving the Amungme, Freeport and the provincial government was held to discuss local concerns. This meeting resulted in a document known as the 1974 January Agreement, in which Freeport pledged to construct facilities, including a school and health clinic in exchange for the approval by indigenous landowners of mining activities.

In the ensuing twenty years, the non-transparent land acquisition process - and forced resettlement of local communities - continued. In 1995, community members understood for the first time that, according to government records, they had ceded all ancestral lands in the Timika area (nearly 1 million hectares) to the government for transmigration settlements, along with the town of Timika and Freeport's new town, Kuala Kencana.

Over the course of their struggle, local landowners have appealed to the Indonesian government, military and civil society institutions, the United Nations, United States courts and policymakers, and directly to Freeport and Rio Tinto management and shareholders in an effort to be heard and to have their concerns effectively addressed.

In a series of formal letters to the government and the military from 1995, in public statements and in face-to-face meetings, community representatives have demanded:
The company has responded by injecting enormous sums of money into local communities. LEMASA (Lembaga Musyawarah Adat Suku Amungme or the Amungme Tribal Council) and the area's three Christian churches have denounced these actions for having a divisive impact on indigenous communities and for fostering a dependency mentality amongst them. In a June 1996 resolution, LEMASA "unconditionally and absolutely" rejected Freeport's "One Percent Trust Fund Offer," which designates one percent of the company's annual revenues for regional development programs. LEMASA declared that "with the help of God we shall never succumb to the offer of bribes, intimidation or [be] dishonestly induced into accepting PT. Freeport Indonesia's 'Settlement Agreement."

More recently, and with few alternatives remaining to them, the Amungme and Kamoro have had to adapt their resistance strategies. After a protracted period of attempted cooptation by Freeport, Amungme community leader Tom Beanal reluctantly - and with the backing of LEMASA - joined PT Freeport's Board of Commissioners in June 1999. Citing the devastation to local communities caused by Freeport's provision of monies through the One Percent Offer - including the deaths of 18 indigenous people because of inter-ethnic conflict sparked by Freeport's divisive tactics - Beanal has written with some bitterness about accepting the Commissioner position, and the role of Vice President of the regional development organisation established with Freeport's One Percent funding. He describes his participation as the only option left to him in defending the rights of his people.

Beanal states:
"What Freeport has done to me is to present me with a single limited choice, prepared by the company, so that I was not able to choose freely, but was always obliged to choose what was desired by Freeport. People see me as working with Freeport now. Perhaps it's true! Nevertheless in the depths of my heart, I feel that I must do what is best for my people."

Moving a Mountain A Day
It is not easy to create one of the largest excavations on earth, and much of the literature about Grasberg marvels at the engineering feat involved in developing the mine. In some way this fixation is no mere boast: the company is moving 700,000 metric tonnes per day of material. This is the rough equivalent to moving the Egyptian Great Pyramid of Cheops once a week.

What makes this mine even more remarkable, and damaging, is that Freeport's operations are at elevations of more than 4,100 metres in the central highlands of the province of Papua. Try to imagine a mountain, with a backdrop of glaciers, jutting out of the largest contiguous expanse of rainforest outside the Amazon. The mountain has been decapitated: the top is gone, and the remains are strewn all over the surrounding region.

The Amungme's cosmology depicts this mountain as the sacred head of their mother and its rivers are her milk. To the Amungme, Freeport is digging out her heart. In a disturbing echo of this analogy Freeport CEO Jim Bob Moffett told shareholders at the company's 1997 annual general meeting in New Orleans that the company's operations were like taking "a volcano that's been decapitated by nature, and we're mining the esophagus." Indeed, as the Grasberg open-pit is exhausted it will become the world's largest underground mine. Already Freeport has ground more than 120 metres from the top of the mountain and all that will be left will be a 450 metre crater surrounded by machine-made tunnels, mountains of crumbling, acid-leaching rock waste and a riverine dumping ground stretching to the coast more than 80 miles away.

Overburden is a mining term describing everything on top of the ore that the mining operation seeks - trees, topsoil, the earth's crust. Overburden exists in a ratio of nearly three to one at Grasberg which means that during the life of the mine, the company will remove a quantity of rock and other debris equivalent to twice the amount of earth extracted to build the Panama Canal, or about three billion metric tonnes. This is being piled in two adjacent alpine valleys: to the west 114 hectares of an alpine meadow known as Carstenszweide will be covered more than 800 feet deep, while on the other side of the mine the Wanagon Valley will be filled 450 metres.

In order to counter considerable criticism of environmental management choices, Freeport has, in recent years, employed paid environmental consultants. The resulting reports have been widely criticised by scientists, environmental organisations and company shareholders as being incomplete and/or misleading. In addition, it seems clear that Freeport has not fully implemented the concrete recommendations made in the reports.

In a 1999 report written for Freeport, the environmental consultants Montgomery Watson stated that the company had "incorporated modern, state-of-the practice geotechnical stability techniques in siting and designing the Wanagon and Carstenz [Overburden Stockpiles]." Just months later, the Wanagon stockpile underwent a massive rockslide that entered Lake Wanagon, generating a pulse of water that washed downstream like a tidal wave into the populated valley below. Previous overflows had occurred at the site, yet Freeport management ignored and suppressed consultants' recommendations to regulate dumping at Wanagon. The result: four workers were killed by the May 2000 wave.

An even more chilling example of expedient environmental management is the tailings disposal system chosen by Freeport. Tailings are the slurry of finely ground ore from which minerals have been removed. In this case, they are a combination of mill wastes including unrecovered copper, fine clays and sediment, chemical precipitates and slimes. They are potentially the biggest source of heavy metal pollution resulting from Freeport's mining activity and are the most difficult byproduct to contain. Recent rates of production have resulted in emptying the equivalent of a ten-tonne dump truck filled with untreated tailings every five seconds.

Much of that 200,000 tonnes or more of tailings per day is being dumped into the Aghawaghon River, which merges into the Otomona and Ajkwa rivers. To place this quantity of discharge into a regional context, the controversial Ok Tedi copper mine in Papua New Guinea disposes of approximately 80,000 tonnes of tailings per day into the Fly River system. Recently the World Bank, and even the Australia-based parent company, BHP, have concluded that this form of waste disposal - small in scale compared with Freeport's volumes - should not be practiced because of the environmental damage it causes.

Riverine tailings disposal is effectively illegal in the United States, Freeport's home country, and is banned in all other developed countries. The practice has attracted condemnation from the international community and was cited as the primary reason for the cancellation of Freeport's political risk insurance by the US government's Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) in 1995. OPIC states that the termination is based, in part, on "unreasonable or major environmental, health and safety hazards" and severe degradation of surrounding rainforests caused by mining operations at Grasberg. That the US Ambassador to Indonesia forgot this and claimed that Freeport is doing an excellent job on the environment at Grasberg is evidence that ignorance, hypocrisy and double-standards in this case are not limited to the corporate decision-makers involved.

Downstream the rainforest is dead, although Freeport now claims that this is all part of the plan and has designated a one-hundred square kilometre sacrifice zone as the tailings deposition area. The area, more than 80 kilometres distant from the mine site, was once a source of livelihood for local indigenous communities. The area of "die-back" in the forest caused by suffocation and poisoning of the trees by the mine wastes could increase by at least 50% if the better-understood Ok Tedi experience is any model. It is precisely this risk - and the loss of livelihood and environmental health - that has caused the parties involved to recommend shutting down the Ok Tedi mine.

Another example of note is the Panguna Copper mine in Bougainville, which seems to share the same cursed vein of porphyry as Ok Tedi and Grasberg. There the mine deposited 130,000 tonnes of tailings per day into the Jaba River and inundated the downstream communities and environment. The result there - when the concerns of disgruntled locals, outraged by the impacts of the mine, went unaddressed for years - was the civil war that beset the island for muchof the 1990s and cost more than ten thousand lives. When it comes to its partnership with Freeport, Rio Tinto, the parent company on Bougainville, seems to have learnt little about the germinal influence of bad mining practices on local conflicts.

Human Rights Violations and International Scrutiny
The human rights conditions associated with Freeport's mining operations are indicative of the problems experienced by local communities facing large-scale resource extraction around the globe. This is particularly true of regions in which multinational exploitation of resources has provoked resistance by indigenous peoples subsequently sparking "counter-insurgency" operations by national militaries supported by the U.S. government. During some 30 years of mine operations, documented human rights abuses have included: In their public statements, the Amungme, in particular, state clearly that they view themselves as victims and as oppressed people. Community members consistently speak about the loss of human dignity and mistreatment -- physical, psychological, spiritual and economic - they have experienced since Freeport, its agents and by-products (subcontractors, military protectors, transmigrants, spontaneous migrants and others) arrived. As one Amungme community leader expressed it, "We feel that [Freeport] and the Government of Indonesia have blatantly disregarded our existence as the owners of the land which was confiscated. They have humiliated our existence, our dignity, our self-esteem, and pride and we, as human beings, have been belittled and trodden over. We are wondering ourselves if, in fact, we are human beings or merelycreatures which are in the process of evolution to become human beings."

Another Amungme community leader asked, "What do they think the Amungme are? Human? Half-human? Or not human at all? If we were seen as human . . . they would not take the most valued property of the Amungme, just as we have never wanted to take the property of others . . . I sometimes wonder, whose actions are more primitive?"

Despite Indonesian government and company interference with scrutiny of human rights conditions in the Freeport area, the 1990s brought increased domestic and international attention to the Amungme and Kamoro's human rights and environmental concerns. In particular, there have been inquiries into specific human rights violations that occurred in and around Freeport's project area in 1994 and 1995 by the Catholic Church of Irian Jaya (1995), Komnas HAM (1995), the International Committee of the Red Cross or ICRC (1995), and by Australian and United States diplomats (1995 and later).

The Catholic Church report, based on eyewitness testimonies, provides the most detailed and disturbing account of the torture and other human rights abuses experienced by Amungme and other local indigenous people: "Torture caused bleeding head wounds, swollen faces and hands, bruises, loss of consciousness and death because of a broken neck. The torture was conducted in Freeport containers, the Army Commander's Mess, the police station and the Freeport security post."

In September 1995, Indonesia's National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) concluded that clear and identifiable human rights violations had occurred in and around Freeport's project area, including indiscriminate killings, torture and inhuman or degrading treatment, unlawful arrest and arbitrary detention, disappearance, excessive surveillance, and destruction of property. Komnas HAM noted that these violations"are directly connected to [the Indonesian army] . . . acting as protection for the mining business of PT Freeport Indonesia." Komnas HAM called on the Indonesian government and military to investigate these occurrences and prosecute those responsible. The Commission also recommended government compensation to the victims and their families. To date, Indonesian authorities have carried out an investigation and prosecutions with regard to only one of the confirmed incidents. No victims have received compensation.

The government's failure to implement the Komnas HAM recommendations and the Commission's own lack of attention to the company's role in the human rights violations has continued to frustrate community members.

In a detailed response to the Komnas HAM findings, the Amungme state, "For us, the Amungme people, the root cause of the human rights violations is Freeport . . ." They continue: "Considering that the government decided to designate Freeport as a 'vital project', why was the matter not first discussed with the people who are the owners of the natural resources before the company began its operations? Or is it that because the company was designated as a vital project, it was deemed necessary to sacrifice the interests of the people? If the company is indeed a vital project, making it necessary for the Government to sacrifice its own people, we regard this as economic colonisation by capitalists in contravention of our national economic system. . . . The fact that Freeport has been allowed to operate here in Irian Jaya and dig up and exploit our mineral resources, to destroy the very means of our existence, to drive us out of our ancestral lands, to impoverish us and kill us on our own territory, is all the result of a policy which has beendetermined at the centre in Jakarta. It is the Central Government that must take responsibility for reaching a solution to this problem."

In February 2000, more than 45 Amungme community leaders again voiced their dissatisfaction with the government's lack of attention to the human rights situation and with Freeport's intransigence in cooperating with an independent assessment of these problems. In a written statement, these community members, describing themselves as "The Victims in Society," emphasise their ongoing problems with Freeport and state their desire for an independent assessment of the company's impact on human rights. In their words: "For all this time many problems have occurred in our land, the Amungsa area, which have never been completely or thoroughly resolved. Then our land has been occupied by PT Freeport Indonesia from 1967 to the present. Since this giant American-owned mining company has been operating on the land of our ancestors we have experienced much suffering."

Recent Developments
The struggle of the Amungme and Kamoro has become intimately entwined with Papuans' territory-wide struggle for independence. Not surprisingly, many Amungme community members support the goals of or have become active in the Free Papua Movement (Organisasi Papua Merdeka or OPM), the amorphous, multi-faction Papuan political movement that has employed tactics of armed resistance and international diplomacy in resisting the takeover of the territory by Indonesia. Since Suharto's forced resignation from the presidency of Indonesia in May 1998, the Amungme have also had greater influence as part of the renewed independence efforts by Papuan civil society. Amungme and Kamoro concerns, common to many indigenous communities throughout Papua, are reflected in the statements of Papua's independence movement. As Tom Beanal and other Papuan community leaders have stated: "Could it be that the Indonesian government is drawn to Irian Jaya not by its people but by its natural resources? The legislative and executive bodies have proven incapable of responding to the genuine aspirationsof the people within the context of the Republic of Indonesia."

The Indonesian government of President Abdurrahman Wahid, which came to power in late 1999, has taken some steps to hold Freeport accountable for environmental impacts and to examine the social and human rights concerns associated with the mine. WALHI, Indonesia's largest environmental organisation, has sued Freeport in the courts for the company's failure to provide accurate information about the environmental impacts of the mine - a first in the countryand yet another example of change there. Some national political parties in Indonesia are beginning to address the issue of indigenous land rights.

Members of Indonesia's democratically elected legislature, challenging the validity of Freeport's contract on the grounds that it was signed in the context of the Suharto regime's high?level corruption and collusion, have asserted that the contract must be renegotiated. Whether or not this occurs, the fact that the possibility has been raised is undoubtedly a mark of the success of the Amungme and Kamoro's struggle. There are mixed signals though, with implications of a new law decentralising decision-making over natural resources to the provincial level remaining ambiguous. Of greater immediate -- and perhaps ultimate -- significance, the Papuan independence movement is gaining momentum. It is fed by outrage over the dispossession, displacement and other human rights abuses, the environmental degradation, and lack of political participation associated with military-backed natural resource exploitation, especially at Freeport's Grasberg mine.

Thousands of Indonesian troops have moved into the province and a military-backed militia has joined with Indonesian security forces to attack Papuan independence supporters. Papuan leaders have been arrested and international observers denied access to courts. Domestic and international observers have expressed concerns that another brutal Indonesian assault on Papua's indigenous population may be forthcoming, and that the situation could deteriorate into conditions similar to those in East Timor in 1999.

As always, Freeport management is playing an active role in warding off perceived threats to its continued operations. The company has been hedging its bets by cultivating connections with both the Indonesian government (especially the military), and with Papua's indigenous civil society and independence movement. The company reportedly gave financial support for the Second Papuan People's Congress in 2000, which was used as a public demonstration of support for independence of the province from Indonesia. At the same time, Freeport CEO Moffett said the company was pursuing an agreement with local community leaders for "significant additional compensation" beyond what is required under Indonesian law.

In 2000, Freeport publicised a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed by the company with representatives of the Amungme and Kamoro people, including long-time opponent Tom Beanal. According to Moffett "Freeport has for many years demonstrated its commitment to ensure the social and economic well being of the local people around our operation by investing significant human and financial resources in our social programs. This MOU, the result of years of patient dialogue, is further evidence of our commitment, and now means we will continue this effort hand in hand with the local people.''

The MOU offers nothing in terms of addressing local concerns regarding public health, land tenure, and environmental protection. While its announcement boosted Freeport's stock rating byfinancial analysts, there is no indication that the MOU represents a retreat from the local communities' commitment to holding Freeport accountable for its social and environmental impact. Beanal remains critical of the continuing dynamic of exploitation that Amungme and Kamoro experience. He recently told a journalist, "The Indonesian Government eats at the table with Freeport, they throw the leftover food on the floor and we Papuans have to fight for it."

Mining Indigenous Lands: Sustainable Community Development or Maldevelopment?
The struggle of the Amungme and Kamoro peoples against the U.S. mining corporation Freeport McMoRan Copper & Gold is one of the best-documented examples of how local communities have experienced, resisted and confronted the seizure of their traditional lands by national government-backed multinational mining enterprises.

The experience of the Kamoro and Amungme typifies that of so many local people who find themselves at the mercy of unregulated global capital in the extractive industries. Indonesia's legal system offers no effective protection for community land rights or for traditional livelihoods and cultures. Highly centralised and militarised governance structures have prevented communities from participating in decision making, regarding use and management of natural resources and environmental conservation. In the repressive political environment that has dominated Indonesia for more than thirty years, basic rights to freedom of expression and subsistence, among others, have been violated in the name of a monolithic model of extraction-based, trickle-down "development." This system has siphoned the vast majority of short-term resource profits to foreign stockholders and the national elite, leaving local people dispossessed, displaced and marginalised.

The experience of the Kamoro and Amungme is also one of 'ersatz development', indeed 'mal-development,' in which dominant powers - Freeport, the central government and the military - have used coercion, intimidation, force, divide and conquer strategies and other undemocratic, non-transparent and non-participatory means to impose the cash-wage nexus, in which land and other natural resources become exchangeable commodities. Their story asks us to consider what sustainable development really is, and whether it is possible to achieve, particularly in indigenous communities, via large-scale mineral extraction designed, imposed and for the benefit of multinationals and governments. It also demonstrates the harm to human life and threat to community existence that result when economic interests are allowed to take precedence over the protection of basic human rights.

Finally, the Freeport case is a microcosm of how the management strategies by multinationals are changing as local resistance becomes more visible. It shows, too, how shareholders, human rights and environmental organisations, public and private insurance and financial lending institutions, and government bodies are taking on new roles in influencing the behaviour of multinationals.

The story of the Amungme, Kamoro and Freeport continues, now in its fourth decade. The future is uncertain. But what is clear is that by taking a determined stand in defense of their rights, the Kamoro and the Amungme have focused the eyes of the world on the severe problems that local communities experience in the face of multinational mining operations. Their struggle is changing the rules of the game for the mining industry, making it increasingly unacceptable that corporations and governments devastate communities and the natural environment in the name of corporate profit-taking and trickle-down "development." Their story, too, underscores the urgent need for more successful mechanisms for safeguarding the rights of indigenous communities in the face of mining assaults in Indonesia and worldwide.


1. A. Abrash, 'The Victims of Indonesia's Pursuit of Progress,' The New York Times, 6 March, 2001.
2. P. Waldman 'Hand in Glove: How Suharto's Circle and a Mining Firm Did So Well Together,' The Wall Street Journal, 29 September, 1998, p. A1.
3. T. Beanal and K. Asmareyao, 'Complaint from Timika,' Letter to the provincial governor, published in Tifa Irian, February 1995.
4. LEMASA (Amungme's traditional Council) Resolution, Timika, Indonesia, 29 June, 1996. (accessed, June 2000)
5. Private correspondence, on file with the authors, 5 December , 1999.
6. R. W. Phelps,'Moving a Mountain a Day-Grasberg Grows Six-Fold' Engineering & Mining Journal, McGraw Hill Publishing Company, New York, June 2000.
8. G Mealey, Grasberg: Mining the Richest and Most Remote Deposit of Copper and Gold in the World, in the mountains of Irian Jaya, Indonesia, Freeport McMoRan Copper & Gold, New Orleans, 1996, p.273.
9. Montgomery Watson Environmental Process Audit 1999 (accessed June 2000) ; Dames & Moore, PTFI Environmental Audit Report, March 1996.
10. Minewatch report on Dames & Moore audit, 'A fossil of the sixties,' 2 September 1996. (accessed June 2000).
11. PT FREEPORT INDONESIA 1999 External Environmental Audit (Excluding Social, Cultural and Economic Impacts); PT FreeportIndonesia Operations; Irian Jaya, Indonesia; December 1999; Montgomery Watson Indonesia, Jakarta, Indonesia and Steamboat Springs, Colorado U.S.A.

12. 'PNG mine closure urged', BBC World News, Tuesday, 7 March, 2000, 22:05 GMT.
13. Letter to Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold, Inc.; U.S. Overseas Private Investment Corporation; Washington, D.C.; 10 October, 1995 available online at: (accessed June 2000).
14. 'US envoy frustrated over Freeport', Indonesian Observer, 14, March 2000.
15. S. Paul 'Ok Tedi owners seek new ways to ease mine harm' MELBOURNE, 25 November, 2000.
16. R. Howitt & J. Connell (ed.), Mining and Indigenous Peoples in Australasia , Sydney University Press, 1991.
17. 'Mission to Indonesia and East Timor on the issue of violence against women', Report of the Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences, U.N. Economic and Social Council, E/CN.4/1999/68/Add.3, 21 January , 1999.
18. 'The Amungme and Komoro Demand Justice for the Destruction caused by Freeport Indonesia in Irian Jaya,' translated letter by Tom Beanal, in his capacity as Director of the Lorentz Foundation, a nongovernmental organisation founded by the Kamoro and Amungme people; circa 1993 (on file with authors).
19. 'Arti Tanah Bagi Suku Amungme', Kompas, 25 September, 1995 English translation ; and cite in M. Easton, Land Tenure Issues Surrounding the PT Freeport Indonesia Concession in Irian Jaya, unpublished manuscript (on file with authors).
20. National Human Rights Commission of Indonesia, 'Results of Monitoring and Investigating of Five Incidents at Timika and One Incident at Hoea, Irian Jaya During October 1994-June 1995,' September 1995; and Violations of Human Rights in the Timika Area of Irian Jaya, Indonesia; Catholic Church of Jayapura; August 1995.
21. Violations of Human Rights in the Timika Area of Irian Jaya, Indonesia; Catholic Church of Jayapura; August 1995.; p. 6.
22. 'Amungme People's Response to National Commission on Human Rights Findings' Announced on 22 September 1995 (on file with the authors).
23. Public Statement, Forum for the Reconciliation of Irian Jaya Society (FORERI), Jayapura, 24 July, 1998.
24. P. Madani and J. Solomon 'Indonesia Orders Freeport To Reduce Mining Output', The Wall Street Journal, 24 May, 2000.
25. M. Shari and S. Prasso 'Freeport McMoRan: A Pit of Trouble' , Business Week, 31 July, 2000.
26. 'Amungme, Kamoro and Freeport Indonesia Announce Agreement'. New Orleans, Business Wire, 18 August, 2000.
27. T Dodd, 'Risky Business-- Freeport dances to a new tune', Australian Financial Review, 16 December, 2000.