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Papuan tribal chief takes on US mining giant: report

Critics accuse Freeport of not giving enough to the people of Papua in return for the mine. They also allege that the military's protection of the site leads to human rights abuses.
by Staff Writers
Jakarta (AFP) Aug 11, 2008
A tribal chief in Indonesia's West Papua launched a campaign Monday to get compensation from US mining giant Freeport for environmental damage to his homelands, a report said.

Fabianus P., chief of the Kapiraya tribe, said tailings from Freeport's huge gold and copper mine in Indonesia's easternmost Papua province were causing more widespread ecological damage than was known, Antara news agency reported.

He said several rivers in his tribe's Kaimana district had been polluted, killing wildlife and poisoning water sources for local people. Mine waste was also fouling parts of the Etna Gulf coastline.

"The local village communities were now facing water shortages as their rivers were contaminated by the chemical pollutants from the company," the Antara report said, quoting the tribal chief.

Fabianus said he had hired lawyers to file a law suit against PT Freeport Indonesia over the alleged environmental damage.

Freeport Indonesia is 81 percent owned by US-based Freeport McMoRan. The remaining stakes are shared equally between the Indonesian government and Indocopper Investama.

Environmentalists say the Papua mine pollutes the World Heritage-listed Lorenz National Park and dumps copper-rich ore around the edge of its operations.

The firm disputes the claims.

Freeport Indonesia is believed to be one of Indonesia's most significant taxpayers and paid the government 1.8 billion dollars last year.

Critics accuse Freeport of not giving enough to the people of Papua in return for the mine. They also allege that the military's protection of the site leads to human rights abuses.

Freeport operates concessions totalling 3.6 million hectares (8.9 million acres) stretching from the coast to the central mountain range at Timika, with its copper reserves estimated at 2.6 billion tonnes.

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