Walhi Demands A Halt To Freeport Mine Operations

October 11, 2003

Friends of the Earth Indonesia, (WALHI) demands the government halt operations at the Grasberg mine (known as ?FreeportĀ¹) following a disastrous landslide on Thursday morning 9 October 2003. The Grasberg mine in West Papua is jointly owned by USA-based Freeport McMoran and UK/Australian mining company Rio Tinto Ltd.

"This event proves Freeport is not competent to handle the current high level of mining production. The government must immediately enforce a reduction in the Freeport production capacity" said Mr. Longgena Ginting, National Director of Friends of the Earth Indonesia (WALHI).

In 1997, the Indonesian government approved a request from Freeport to raise production capacity to 300 000 tons of ore per day. The increase in production capacity was funded in large part by Rio Tinto Ltd, in return for a share in the increased mine profits. Even at the lower production level, Freeport?s operations had resulted in huge environmental impacts. Destruction caused by the Freeport mining operation covers a vast area from the 4 000 meter high mountaintop all the way down to the coast and the Arafura Sea to Australia?s north.

Freeport Mining Indonesia always claims that various disasters which have occurred in its area of operations are the tragic result of natural events, such as the landslide of waste rocks at Lake Wanagon in 2000, which killed 4 of Freeport?s subcontract workers. In fact, Freeport is well aware of the risk of it?s operation in an area with high rainfall and seismic activity, nevertheless this has not prevented the company from raising production capacity in the scramble for maximum profits.

"Now is the time for the House of Representatives to pressure the government to conduct a review of all mining contracts and improve the mining licensing system which up until now has given absolute rights to mining companies at the expense of the public" continued Longgena Ginting.

The government is also obliged to demand absolute responsibility from companies, based on the principle of strict liability as set out in Environment Management Law No.23 (1997), and must both compel the company to immediately repair environmental damage and demand responsibility from company executives for the disastrous loss of life.

For more information contact:

Longgena Ginting
Ph: (+62 (0) 811 927 038)

Nur Hidayati
Ph: (+62 (0) 21- 794 1672)

Note:

In year 2000, WALHI filed a lawsuit against Freeport for not giving correct and accurate information about the incident in Lake Wanagon which had caused 4 casualties. The first-tier court found Freeport guilty as charge. The case is now on the National Supreme Court.