Papua mine sued for $US30 billion PDF Afdrukken

Vehicle check at the Grasberg mine run by Freeport McMoran Copper & Gold Inc., in Timika, Papua, Indonesia. [Reuters]A West Papuan tribe is suing the giant Freeport mine for $US30 billion, claiming massive environmental damage and responsibility for human rights abuses.

Representatives of the Amungme people in the Indonesian province say they own 2.6 million hectares where the giant gold and copper mine operates.


But in claims rejected by Freeport, they insist they have not received an adequate share of the massive profits flowing from these resources.

Accountable


In a court case opening this month in Jakarta, they are demanding $20 billion compensation for environmental destruction and the rest under human rights claims.

Titus Natkime, an Amungme plaintiff and lawyer, told Radio Australia's Connect Asia: "What we hope for is compensation. Compensation from 1967 until 2009. Freeport has got to be accountable, accountable for damage to the environment, human rights, backwardness. Freeport has got to answer this in court."

The plaintiffs also took Freeport to court in the 1990s, and lost.

Then in 2000, the company and the tribespeople reached an agreement for compensation funds. But Mr Naktime says they are disappointed at the result.

In the first case, "we were demanding $6 billion in compensation, but the court rejected it.

"In 2000 there was an agreement between the Amungme tribe and Freeport, but to this point they haven't given us compensation. That's why we're now making a legal demand."

Along with Freeport, the lawsuit also targets the Indonesian government which owns just under 9.5 percent of Freeport, and PT Indocopper, a company linked to Indonesian Coordination Welfare Minister Aburizal Bakrie.

This has a sizeable stake in the mine's parent company in the US.


Baseless


Freeport has been under fire for some time from environmental groups, who say the mine has destroyed much of its surrounding area.

The case comes at a bad time for the company, with armed attacks near the mine site injuring several workers and claiming the lives of two staff, including Australian worker Drew Grant.

But company spokesperson Mido Pangaribuan rejects the Amungme claims, saying they are baseless.

In an email to Radio Australia, he says Freeport has made considerable contributions to local communities - and has gone beyond the call of duty in making agreements with tribes in the area.

"Our agreement with the Amungme tribal community in 1974 was the first recognition in Indonesia of the right of traditional people to undeveloped land for hunting and gathering," he says.

Whatever the rights of the case, it is a public image problem for one of the world's biggest mines, in one of the most remote areas.