On 16 October 2021, the Freeport security task force members, together with the Amole police unit, reportedly evicted the camp of traditional gold miners at mile 74 Ritz. They mainly consist of indigenous Papuans who pan for gold in the Ajikwa River, where PT Freeport Indonesia (PTFI) dumps its mining tailings. According to information from local sources, one of the gold panners, Mr Diolameo Mom, 36, sustained a bullet injury in the chest as the security forces opened fire at the gold panners at Mile 74. Thereupon, the miners attacked the security forces with rocks. Multiple Freeport vehicles were allegedly damaged during the unrest.
Shortly after the incident, the gold panners and the victim’s relatives gathered at mile 74 Ritz and demanded that the perpetrator be held accountable (see photo, source: independent HRD). Mr Diolameo Mom was brought to Jakarta for medical treatment in the early morning of 17 October 2021.
The Grasberg mine has been a constant hotspot of violence, environmental pollution and conflict of interests since PTFI launched its operations in 1973. The company is responsible for the destruction of marine and forest areas on a large scale, having a serious impact on the livelihood of indigenous Kamoro and Amungme communities, who are the legitimate owners of the customary land. The Indonesian government has tolerated the violations and again ignored the Kamoro and Amungme’s right to free, prior informed consent (FPIC) by excluding them from negotiations with PT FI over the prolongation of Freeport’s mining concession until 2041.
In February 2017, the company started to conduct mass layoffs without negotiating with the workers union. About 8,300 PTFI employees were reportedly affected by the layoffs. The company’s workers responded with a strike. The mining company crushed the strike with non-violent and violent interventions, resulting in multiple forms of labour rights and civil rights violations. The company forcibly evicted workers from homes, denied employees access to corporate hospitals and schools, and blocked bank accounts and credit services for strike participants. In various incidents, Freeport used Indonesian security forces to arrest strike participants unlawfully. Some of them were subjected to torture and criminal prosecution.
On 12 October 2021, Indonesian President, Joko Widodo, inaugurated the construction site for the new PTFI industrial smelter in the Javanese city of Gresik, East Jawa Province, where the raw mineral materials from the Grasberg Mine will be purified and processed. The government estimates that the new smelter will create 40,000 new jobs in East Jawa, while about 8.300 Papuan Freeport workers continue to fight for their labour rights.
Many Papuans feel disappointed about the government’s decision to build the smelter in Java. Politicians have repeatedly demanded that the industrial complex be built in West Papua, where the minerals are exploited. They argue the labour opportunities would push prosperity in the under-developed Indonesian provinces Papua and Papua Barat.