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Indonesia: Freeport McMoran abruptly suspends operations in West Papua over contract dispute with govt.; hundreds of workers laid off
Author: Krithika Varagur, Voice of America, Published on: 7 March 2017
“Showdown in Indonesia Brings World’s Biggest Gold Mine to Standstill”, 27 Feb 2017
The American mining company Freeport-McMoRan has brought the world's biggest gold mine, in the Indonesian province of West Papua, to a standstill. The corporation is butting heads with the Indonesian government over protectionist mining regulations. And now that Freeport has started to dismiss tens of thousands of workers, the local economy is poised to take a huge hit. In Mimika Regency, the West Papua province containing the Grasberg gold mine, 91 percent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is attributed to Freeport.
…The freeze was a reaction to a shakeup in Freeport’s 30-year contract with the Indonesian government, signed in 1991. Indonesia has tried to levy additional obligations from Freeport in an attempt to increase domestic revenue from its natural resources. Freeport retaliated last week by threatening to pursue arbitration and sue the government for damages….
“I suspect that, because they may lose their jobs, many employees will want to stage demonstrations… but then, ironically, they will be laid off because that’s the state policy. I think this whole situation is a human rights violation,” said Gobai [a member of the Papua parliament].
“Violence is a very big possibility,” said Andreas Harsono, a Human Rights Watch researcher. “Timika is…the location of more than 3,500 security officers stationed along the 90-mile mining road, not to say Papuan guerrillas and hundreds of military deserters, all looking for a slice of the gold and copper mine. Shooting along the road is a regularity rather than an irregularity….