Update on armed conflict in Intan Jaya – Government plans exploitation of gold reserves while residents face displacement and education crisis

The armed conflict in Intan Jaya has significantly aggravated since December 2020. Shootings in January and February 2020 resulted in multiple civilian fatalities while at least 15 villages were reportedly affected by internal displacement. The recent killing of a Papuan Pastor, the armed assault on a Catholic catechist and the attack on an investigation team seconded by the central government illustrate that the armed conflict in Intan Jaya has never been more serious. In the midstof the humanitarian crisis, the Indonesian Minister of State-owned Enterprises, Mr Erick Thorir, announced in late September 2020 that he is planning to endorse the Indonesian mining company PT Aneka Tambang Tbk (ANTAM) to exploit large gold resources under the Wabu Mountain in the Intan Jaya Regency.

Experts estimated that the so-called Wabu Block has an area of about 10,700 hectares with a potential of 4.3 million tonnes of gold ore with a potential gold grade of 2.47 grams per tonne. Representatives of the Indonesian Fellowship of Churches (PGI) criticised the government’s plan to launch mineral exploitation projects in the conflict-ridden regency. The PGI is concerned that the miming operation will have negative effects on the indigenous Moni and Miagani communities in Intan Jaya. These communities already have to cope with the aggravation of the armed conflict and the heavy presence of the Indonesian Military (TNI).

The armed conflict between the West Papua National Liberation Army (TPN PB) and the TNI severely affects public life and services in the Intan Jaya Regency. Members of the National Human Rights Commission (Komnas HAM) stated during a visit to Intan Jaya in mid-October (see photo, source: Jubi) that more than 100 primary and secondary school pupils in the district of Hitadipa have not been able to attend school for several months because TNI members are using the school building as a temporary military outpost. Komnas HAM Commissioner, Choirul Anam, expressed his concern about the education crisis in the Hitadipa District and urged the provincial and local government to pay close attention to this development. In early August 2020, human rights defenders in Intan Jaya also raised concern over TNI monitoring activities in public shools. Military members reportedly visited schools in Sugapa Town where they documented the identities of  pupils and interrogated them after school.

Meanwhile, the team seconded by the Coordinating Minister for Politics, Law and Human Rights, Mahfud MD, to investigate the killing of Papuan Pastor Yeremias Zanambani, has returned from its visit to Intan Jaya. The team was widely rejected by Papuan civil society groups and will submit its controversial report to Minister Mahfud on 21 October 2020.