The annual Public Eye Awards selects 6 of the most unethical and abusive corporations from a long list of nominations, and then allows the public to submit their picks for the worst one. This year, Freeport McMoran – the scourge of West Papua – made the final cut!
Please join us in voting for Freeport by going here:
Precious metals in exchange for death and exploitation: The Arizona-based mining corporation has operated the Grasberg Mine, the world’s largest gold and copper mine in West Papua, for 45 years without regard for nature and people. The mine produces 230,000 tons of tailings contaminated with heavy metals every day, resulting in a blanket of copper-laden waste covering over 200 square kilometers (90 square miles) and up to 15 meters (50 feet) deep that kills everything in its path and threatens a World Heritage site. In a large strike at the end of 2011, two strikers were shot dead by the police and union members received death threats. Switzerland is the fifth-largest trading center for Freeport’s precious metals (after the U.S., Japan, Indonesia and Spain).
About Freeport McMoran
Headquarters: Arizona, USA
Revenue / Profit: USD 19 billion / USD 4.3 billion (2010)
Owned by: publicly-listed corporation
CEO: Richard C. Adkerson
Irresponsible Corporate Behavior
Freeport McMoRan has been exploiting West Papua for four decades. Thanks to 1967 deal with then-dictator Suharto, the corporation has been able to brazenly help itself to the vast gold and copper reserves of West Papua . As a result, Freeport contaminates the environment, drives the indigenous population into slums, and ruins their religious and cultural sites. They have removed a mountaintop considered sacred by local indigenous people to create the world’s largest copper and gold mine. The activities of Freeport lead to social disintegration and the creation of ghettos. This form of economic colonization inhibits the development of society, drives people to prostitution, and promotes the sharp rise in HIV infections in the West Papuan population.
The mine produces 230,000 tons of tailings contaminated with heavy metals every day, resulting in a blanket of cement-like waste covering over 200 sqaure milesand up to 15 meters (50 feet) deep that kills everything in its path. The Lorentz National Park, a World Heritage site, is increasingly threatened by Freeport’s toxic waste. The displaced population lives in slum-like conditions: In the mining town of Timika, more than half the population lives below the poverty line. Crime, prostitution and HIV infections are steadily rising. The corruption of military and police adds oil to the fire in West Papua’s already unstable political climate. The potential for conflict surges, with repeated riots, injuries and deaths. More than 160 people have been fatally shot by the military in the surroundings of Freeport’s Grasberg Mine.
Current Status and Demands on the Company
Thousands of underpaid mine workers went on strike at the end of 2011, temporarily paralyzing the mine. In light of Freeport’s catastrophic practices, the company’s financial partners must distance themselves from Freeport; the Norwegian Government Pension Fund has already taken this step. The Indonesia Human Rights Committee claims Freeport cannot operate the Grasberg Mine without committing human rights violations and irreversible environmental destruction, and therefore calls for the closure of the mine.
Public Eye reminds the corporate world that social and environmental misdeeds have consequences – for the affected people and territory, but also for the reputation of the offender.
Whether exploitative working conditions, environmental sins, intentional disinformation, or other disregards of corporate social responsibility: At the forefront of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in late January, the most evil offenses appear on the shortlist of the Public Eye Awards 2012.