Mysterious shootings at the Freeport mine continue

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A series of shootings between 'Police Mobile Brigade' (BRIMOB) forces and an unknown armed group has again been reported from the Freeport mining area in Tembagapura of Mimika Regency. Throughout the past 15 years, similar incidents had repeatedly occurred in various locations along the connecting road to the Freeport mining site and cost the lives of dozens of security force members and Freeport personnel, including foreigners. However, the shootings had become less frequent throughout the past years and almost stopped throughout 2015 and 2016.

On the 21 October 2017, an unknown armed group opened fire at a Freeport convoy and subsequently at several BRIMOB officers near Utikini Village. The fire fight lead to bullet injuries among two BRIMOB officers. A further exchange of fire was reported on on 22 October at the bridge near Utikini, causing the death of one BRIMOB officer. According to a press release by the Papuan Regional Police (POLDA Papua), members of the armed independence movement (TPN) under the command of Sabinus Waker are responsible for the shootings. However, various critical civil society groups and Papuan intellectuals claim that the shootings may be part of a conflict over lucrative Freeport security contracts between the Indonesian police and the military.

The continuation of the shootings may be related to the recent extension of the Freeport mining concessions until 2041. In August 2017,  the majority American shareholder Freeport McMoRan agreed to give up 41.64% of its shares in its Indonesian subsidiary, PT Freeport Indonesia to enable the Indonesian government to purchase 51% of the shares.