poisoning of Irian Jaya, Indonesia

Freeport McMoran's mine lies on Indonesian-controlled Irian Jaya, the western half of the island of New Guinea. It is probably the most controversial mining operation in the world. Allegations of major environmental damage and human rights abuses have provoked investigations and protests in the US and riots on the island.

In the process of digging up vast quantities of ore-bearing rock from the world's largest gold mine and third-largest copper mine, Freeport McMoRan has flattened the highest peak between the Himalayas and the Andes, and has dumped the 110,000 tons of mining waste produced each day into the rivers that run down from the mountains.

The waste has damaged both the environment of Irian Jaya, and the lives of the people that live there. Water contamination has caused skin rashes, stomach problems, bloody coughs, and even death. Death has also been the fate for the fish and the sago palm trees that sustain the indigenous Komoro people. Among the Amungme people, the leaves of the vegetables and the skin of the pigs on which they live have discolored from the pollution.

According to a Dutch study of the area around Freeport's mine, 20 - 40 kilometers of the Ajkwa river is so polluted with acid mine drainage and toxic waste metals that is will be hazardous to fish and humans for 15 years. The study also showed the river's flood plains will be poisoned for 35 years, as will the river's estuary and delta.

The Overseas Private Investment Corporation, a political risk insurance agency owned by the US government withdrew an insurance policy for the mine in November, 1995. Freeport brought in Henry Kissinger to lobby the State Department to stop the policy cancellation (Kissinger's consulting firm received $600,000 from Freeport in 1994), and Indonesian President Suharto made a personal appeal to President Clinton on behalf of Freeport. The insurance policy was reinstated.

Human rights abuses have been blamed on Indonesian army officials guarding the mine, including an incident of beatings, stabbings, torture, and murder that occurred in December 1994.. Freeport denies that any of its officials were involved. In addition, there are reports that 37 people were killed in the area of the mine in 1994 and 1995, no surprise to local people who have watched thousands of their countrymen die at the hands of army officials in the past decades.

Freeport McMoRan has abused the land and the people of Irian Jaya with the support of the Indonesian government. Now, its reputation for environmental destruction and human rights abuses is being exposed in the light of international condemnation.

Tell President Clinton, and your Senators and Representative to stop supporting Freeport McMoRan's environmental destruction and human rights abuses in Irian Jaya, Indonesia.

Environment watch