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
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.