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Freeport-McMoRan lawsuits (re West Papua)

In 1996, members of the Amungme people of West Papua filed lawsuits against mining company Freeport-McMoRan in US federal and Louisiana state courts. The plaintiffs alleged that Freeport was complicit in human rights abuses committed by its security forces and that Freeport engaged in human rights and environmental violations through its conduct at the Grasberg mine in West Papua. The cases were dismissed both in federal and Lousiana state courts.

In 1996 Tom Beanal, a leader of the Amungme people of West Papua, filed suit against Freeport-McMoRan in US federal court.  The same year, Yosefa Alomang also filed suit against Freeport-McMoRan in Louisiana state court.  Beanal alleged that Freeport was complicit in human rights abuses committed against him and the Amungme people by security forces employed by Freeport; the human rights violations alleged were surveillance, mental torture, death threats and house arrest.  Beanal also alleged that Freeport’s operations in West Papua caused severe degradation to the Amungme’s environment and habitat.  Finally, Beanal alleged that Freeport’s mining operations resulted in “cultural genocide” by destroying the Amungme's habitat and religious symbols. 

The district court dismissed the case in 1998 on the basis that the environmental and human rights abuses alleged by Beanal were not violations of the “law of nations”.  Beanal appealed this ruling, but the court of appeals affirmed the lower court’s dismissal of the case in 1999.  In the Louisiana state court case, Alomang alleged that Freeport had engaged in human rights and environmental violations through its corporate policies and conduct at its Grasberg mine in West Papua.  She claimed relief under Louisiana state tort law.  Alomang’s case was dismissed by the state court in 2000 for failure to state an actionable claim against Freeport.


- “Below a Mountain of Wealth, a River of Waste”, Jane Perlez & Raymond Bonner, New York Times, 27 Dec 2005
- “What’s Yours is Mine”, Robert Bryce, Austin Chronicle, 1 Sep 2000
- [PDF] “International Environmental Claims Against Mining Company Operating in Indonesia Rejected by Fifth Circuit”, Stuart R. Butzier, Modrall, Sperling, Roehl, Harris & Sisk, 03 Apr 2000
- “Current Developments - Beanal v. Freeport-McMoran, Inc.: Anatomy of an International Environmental Tort Case”, Ethan Jessup, New England International and Comparative Law Annual, Vol. 5, 1999

- “Freeport-McMoRan Response to New York Times Article and Editorial Re Papuan Operations”, 11 Jan 2006
- “Landmark Court Rulings - Issues & Answers”, June 2004
- “US Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals Affirms Dismissal of Beanal Lawsuit”, 01 Dec 1999

Earthrights International: 
Amicus Brief for Beanal v. Freeport McMoRan

- US Court of Appeals, 5th Circuit: Beanal v. Freeport-McMoRan, 29 Nov 1999

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