South East Asia’s Phantom Menace: Rio Tinto & Freeport-Mcmoran

South East Asia’s Phantom Menace: Rio Tinto & Freeport-Mcmoran

South East Asia’s Phantom Menace: Rio Tinto & Freeport-Mcmoran Australia, Bougainville, Indonesia, Japan, News, Pacific, PNG, West Papua
June 29, 2011

Did Rio Tinto Manufacture a Civil War in Papua New Guinea?

An official statement from Papua New Guinea’s Prime Minister, Sir Michael Somare, as part of a class action suit against Australian mining giant Rio Tinto in 2001, was made public this week.

Somare accuses the Australian mining giant and its subsidiary Bougainville Copper Limited (BCL) of being instrumental players in the PNG military’s deadly war against Bougainville rebels who opposed Rio Tinto’s Panguna copper mining operation. The PNG PM’s statement reads, in part:

“Rio Tinto played an active role in military operations that ultimately led to a civil war in which 15,000
people died.”

“Because of Rio Tinto’s financial influence in Papua New Guinea, the company controlled the government. The government of PNG followed Rio Tinto’s instructions and carried out its requests. BCL played an active role in the war supplying helicopters, pilots, troops, transportation, fuel and troop barracks.”

“It is my opinion that absent Rio Tinto’s mining activity on Bougainville, the government would not have engaged in hostilities or taken military action on the island.”

Cut to West Papua: Enter Freeport-Mcmoran

Papua New Guinea has one land border which divides the island of New Guinea, basically, in half. The western half is officially known as Papua province, or West Papua. It is governed by Indonesia under terms of “special autonomy,” though the region has sought independence since 1963.

West Papua is home of the Grasberg Mine operated by international mining giant Freeport-Mcmoran, in partnership with the Australian Rio Tinto. It is the world’s biggest gold mine and Indonesia’s largest taxpayer.

For the first-quarter of 2011 alone, Freeport has paid US $678 million to the Indonesian government.

In the last 9 years Freeport’s payments to the Indonesian government total a whopping $12.1 billion.

As if that wasn’t enough, Freeport also outsources the Indonesian military as a privately-payed, personal security force, who routinely commit brutal acts violating the human rights of the indigenous Papuan people. John Kabey, chairman of Indonesia’s Trade and Industry Chamber, stated:

“Freeport uses all its corporate social responsibility funds to finance the security of their operations, including direct payments to the Indonesian armed forces… Freeport operations in Papua for more than thirty years have done nothing to improve the living conditions of the Papuan people. “

This is largely confirmed by a series of cables from the US embassy in Jakarta in September 2009, obtained by Wikileaks. The US embassy said:

“The Indonesian Military (TNI) has far more troops in Papua than it is willing to admit to. They operate as a virtually autonomous governmental entity within the Papua province.”

Throughout 2009, cables accuse Indonesia’s government of neglecting West Papua – including:

“the failure to ensure revenue generated by mining is fairly distributed… Most money transferred to the province remains unspent although some has gone into ill-conceived projects or disappeared into the pockets of corrupt officials.”

A senior Freeport mining official even confessed:

“Average Papuans see few benefits from the royalty and tax payments by Freeport and other extractive industries.”

West Papua Media Alerts also commented on Freeport-Mcmoran’s destructive practices:

“The copper and gold reserves currently being mined by Freeport are deemed to be the largest reserves in the world, while Freeport’s operations have transformed a huge mountain into a deep crater and tailings have poisoned the nearby rivers, depriving Papuans who once lived in the area of the basic source of their livelihoods.”
Freeport Still Looking for more minerals to extract- possibly uranium.

A JUBI report says that “foreign investors are busy investigating what more they can take away from Papua,” some are speculating there may be uranium there. JUBI has been told that aerial surveying – aerogeophysics -has been used to survey the uranium potential.

West Papua Media Alerts offered this analysis:

“At this time of great market uncertainty about uranium and the safety of nuclear power following the still ongoing Fukushima reactor disaster in Japan, it beggars belief that Freeport and its main shareholder, Rio Tinto, are conducting illegal (uncontracted) exploration for potential uranium deposits (of which there are large amounts around the Grasberg complex).”

“If the Indonesian civilian government were to set up a National Audit of all Freeport activities, they would see clearly that the military-corporate collusion is reaping massive financial benefits, just not for either West Papua, nor Indonesian people.”

We all know these two monsters named Rio Tinto and Freeport-Mcmoran could care less about the people of Indonesia, West Papua or Papua New Guinea. They would do or say anything to be able to obtain the valuable resources that should belong to the people of these lands. 10’s, if not 100’s, of thousands of people have died, directly, or indirectly, as a result of these inhuman entities, and for what?


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