PT Freeport Indonesia conducts Environmental Impact Analysis – Indigenous communities fear expansion of mining area

PT Freeport Indonesia (PT FI), which operates one of the world's largest gold and copper mines, the Grasberg mine, in the highlands of West Papua, has invited indigenous community representatives, environmental and indigenous organisations to a first public consultation meeting on 13 August 2020. The meeting was held in the context of a new Environmental Impact Analysis (EIA). Many indigenous community representatives refused to attend the meeting out of fear that their participation would be nothing more than a symbolic act without taking their claims and aspirations into consideration. Several community leaders criticized Freeport’s EIA process for its lack of transparency and expressed concerns that PT FI conducts the EIA for the expansion of their current mining area (WIUPK) with a total size of 9.946 hectares.

PT FI’s Corporate Communication Vice President, Riza Pratama, stated in media interviews that the company is not planning to expand its mining area. According to Pratama, the EIA is part of the licensing requirements for the operational transition from the open-pit mine to an underground mine.

Yohan Zonggonau, the secretary of the ‘Birth Right Forum’ (FPHS), an organisation representing the interests of the indigenous community in the villages Tsinga, Waa/ Banti and Arwanop, explained that PT FI has failed to uphold the fundamental rights of his people for 53 years. The three villages are located in the immediate vicinity of the Grasberg mine. The villagers are still waiting for the hospital and the school, which the company promised to set up.

The villagers continue to suffer from the violent conflict and environmental degradation that the Grasberg mine has brought upon them. Tsinga and Arwanop have repeatedly been struck by landslides and floods during the past years and the nearby rivers Aghawagon, Otomona and Ajkwa have been irretrievably polluted with mining tailings. Furthermore, many villagers have been internally displaced since late February 2020, when the armed conflict between the West Papua National Liberation Army (TPN PB) and the Indonesian military aggravated. Many fear to return to their homes and are forced to live with relatives and friends in the town of Timika.