Papuan clan threatens polluting mining company

In the end, the family accepted the money, he says, but he plans a lawsuit and is demanding royalties.

Such defiance is symptomatic of the growing troubles in Papua, where four people have been killed in recent weeks in protests against Freeport.

And it shows that times are changing for multinational companies and governments long used to working out concessions in remote areas with a handshake, over the heads of local people.

In the present ugly mood, the people around the mine give short shrift to the more than $ 150 million that the company says it has spent on community development. Instead, they complain that they have lost their most precious assets: their land their river system, which is used as a waste chute, and their sago plants, which have disappeared under more than 23,000 hectares of mine waste, accumulating at a rate of some 700,000 tonnes a day.

Resentment is compounded by the presence of the Indonesian military, an almost entirely non-Papuan force often most intent on extracting its own cut of the provinces resources.

"Freeport is being held hostage for its relationship with the armed forces and the police," says Agus Sumule, a professor of agriculture at the University of Cenderawasih, the province’s main campus. "There is no way they can do their operations without the armed forces, and that’s because of their bad relationship with the local people." The tight grip of the military fuels calls for independence that send shudders through the Indonesian authorities, he says.

This contrasts sharply with how the company appeased Natkime’s father, Tuarek, in 1967. Balfour Darnell, a self-described roughneck who built Freeport’s first base camps, soothed Tuarek Natkime’s suspicion of the outsiders with a simple tool that was half hatchet and half hammer. With the promise of a few sacks of salt, the tribal leader said he would clear a landing area for the company helicopter. "So we blasted off and that was the end of that meeting," Darnell marvelled. "We were safe." Now, in the age of Tuarek Natkime’s more educated, more worldly son, it is not clear any more how safe.

The Australian Financial Review, 6/4/2006, p. 61

Source: Erisk Net

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