1 November 2011

Jakarta wants Freeport mine open

Armed police officers patrol the streets of Jayapura, Papua, on Monday. National Police Chief Gen. Timur Pradopo admitted on Friday that his officers in the restive region receive funds, which he dubs as 'lunch money,' from PT Freeport Indonesia. (Antara Photo)
The government is sending the deputy minister for mineral resources to Papua with orders to get the Freeport mine operating again before dealing with the demands of striking workers or calls to renegotiate the company’s terms of operations.

Widjajono Partowidagdo said his first priority would be to improve the security situation at the US-owned gold and copper mine and get it working again.

“Essentially [the company wants] security to return to normal. I will go to Papua this week,” Widjajono said.

Only after the mine is up and running, he added, will the issues behind the dispute be dealt with.

Asked about the possibility of renegotiating the company’s contract of work, which is considered by many observers to be unfavorable to Indonesia in terms of the revenue split, Widjajono said that the government would not try and dictate new terms.

“We aren’t going to demand anything unreasonable, because that way we won’t reach an agreement,” he said.

The two main financial interests in the Grasberg copper and gold mine near Timika are US company Freeport-McMoRan and Anglo-Australian company Rio Tinto, through its 1995 joint venture entitling it to 40 percent of additional production from expansion of the mine.

In Jayapura, the capital of Papua, student organizations gathered to oppose the continued presence of Freeport in the province. They gave speeches and unfurled a banner that said “the Papuan people must assert sovereignty over their natural resources.”

Students said the company’s presence was behind many of the problems in Papua. They demanded that Freeport leave Papua, and for the Grasberg mine to pass into the ownership of the Papuan people.

Student leaders Fanny Kogoya and Bovid Defa said any plans to renegotiate Freeport’s contract should involve indigenous Papuan people, who were not involved in the two previous negotiations.

The students called their new group the “People’s Movement Against Freeport Crimes.” Ririn Radiawati Kusuma

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