Tuesday, February 28, 2017

1) Environmental costs, benefits and possibilities: Q&A with anthropologist Eben Kirksey

  • 2) PT Agriprima Cipta Persada clears the Mahuze Kewamese Clan’s Ancestral Forest.

  • 3) Local administrations in Papua to get Freeport shares
  • ————————————————————————

28 February 2017 / John C. Cannon

  • The emerging field of the environmental humanities provides researchers with the tools and frameworks to understand the interplay of environmental change, justice and power. Mongabay spoke with one of its leading practitioners.

  • The environmental humanities pull together the tools of the anthropologist and the biologist.
  • Anthropologist Eben Kirksey has studied the impact of mining, logging and infrastructure development on the Mee people of West Papua, Indonesia, revealing the inequalities that often underpins who benefits and who suffers as a result of natural resource extraction.
  • Kirksey reports that West Papuans are nurturing a new form of nationalism that might help bring some equality to environmental change.

Indonesia’s West Papua holds some of the largest remnants of old-growth tropical forest on the planet. Yet the region faces increasing pressure to share its riches with the rest of the world. Mining companies have dug for gold and copper, leaving scars visible from space. Loggers have razed rainforest and built highways into previously remote areas. And with Indonesia as a whole producing half the world’s palm oil, the hunt for new plantation sites threatens to fragment what’s left of the region’s standing forest.
These development projects have taken place as Indonesia has divided the territory, splitting the western half of the island of New Guinea into West Papua and Papua in the 2000s.
Indonesia’s West Papua holds some of the largest remnants of old-growth tropical forest on the planet. Yet the region faces increasing pressure to share its riches with the rest of the world. Mining companies have dug for gold and copper, leaving scars visible from space. Loggers have razed rainforest and built highways into previously remote areas. And with Indonesia as a whole producing half the world’s palm oil, the hunt for new plantation sites threatens to fragment what’s left of the region’s standing forest.
These development projects have taken place as Indonesia has divided the territory, splitting the western half of the island of New Guinea into West Papua and Papua in the 2000s.

Map of the region of West Papua (in red) on the island of New Guinea. Map courtesy of Eben Kirksey
Eben Kirksey, an anthropologist at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia, has spent nearly two decades investigating what the push for natural resources has meant for the people of West Papua. His own discipline has left him uniquely positioned to dig deeper into the crossroads of changes to the ecological environment and to our ways of life.
“Anthropology is the most humanistic of the sciences, and the most scientific of the humanities,” Kirksey said, quoting cultural anthropologist Alfred Louis Kroeber.
But Kirksey is also a leader in the emerging discipline known as the environmental humanities, drawing from the tools of both anthropologists and biologists.
Mongabay spoke with Kirksey to discuss his recent article, published in the journal South Atlantic Quarterly, which looks how the balance of power metes out – often inequitably – the consequences and benefits of harvesting natural resources and of the ensuing changes to the environment. In his essay, he explores how the Mee people of the village of Unipo adapt to clear-cutting of the forest that had been their home for centuries, and the ways in which the construction of a road, originally intended to shuttle timber from the hinterlands, set different parts of society on a collision course.
During the conversation, Kirksey also delves into current politics and how a more constructive, nascent form of nationalism arising in West Papuan communities might bring some equality to the sharing of nature’s largesse.

Mongabay: Can you explain what environmental humanities is and how it’s emerging as a discipline right now?
Eben Kirksey: Basically, biologists used to study the domain of nature, and anthropologists, which is my own discipline, used to study culture. Folks in the environmental humanities are interested in the intersection of the two, where nature and culture meet. People are studying the dynamics of power, how political and economic systems influence that nature-culture dynamic, and asking this question of who benefits when species meet. We are thinking about who lives and dies amidst encounters amongst humans and other kinds of life – how clear cutting a rainforest or having an industrial project impinges upon particular communities.
Mongabay: In your essay, you talk about how these dynamics affect individuals’ lives but then also the global balance of power.
Eben Kirksey: Yeah, it’s a really exciting moment because a lot of people are using these new tools to follow global assemblages [and] be really specific in tracing how a commodity moves, for example, through pipelines or through transnational shipping systems [and how they] change people and ecological communities all along the way. A lot of folks are also looking at chemicals on a global scale that are in the atmosphere, like carbon, that are changing the very possibilities of life on Earth.
I think we’re getting increasingly specific in terms of how we link things up. What sorts of lives and deaths matter in this world that I inhabit? What sorts of chemicals impinge upon my existence? What sort of consumer choices do I make that are shaping this world that I’m creating here but also the global assemblages that let my life exist in this particular moment?
Mongabay: You talk about the differences you observed between your first arrival in the late 1990s and your return in 2015. What was most striking?
Eben Kirksey: I’ve been back a number of times since the late ’90s. I think one different thing was just a real sense of hope and possibility [then]. On the heels of the resignation of this dictator, President Suharto, who had been in office for 32 years, there was this real sense of political possibility. He left office in May ’98, and I got there a couple of weeks later.
Within Indonesia, this archipelago of some 12,000 islands, there was a sense that a democratic reform project could be actualized. In 1999, East Timor got independence. West Papua had high hopes that they would get independence with momentum building toward the year 2000, the new millennium, as a new president took office in Indonesia.
I was visiting rural places – spaces by the side of the road that had only emerged recently in the last few years as a logging company clear cut the forest and built a road connecting the lowlands with the highlands. A lot of extraction projects were going on, and there was also a sense of hope and possibility with development projects, even as people were in vulnerable and precarious situations.
Over the next couple of decades, the vulnerabilities and precarities that people were experiencing intensified at the same time that this sense of political possibility started to evaporate. As those hopes were dashed, people started to still hold onto dreams of getting liberated from this military occupation, amidst the everyday violence, amidst targeted killings of leaders, but also just everyday killings like the one that I describe in the article – teenagers basically getting assaulted by the police with very little pretext.
Against the backdrop of that ongoing violence, I think that hope for a change that resolves all of this politically, the possibility of that political outcome, is increasingly elusive.

Oge Bage Mee children washing sweet potatoes. Photo by Eben Kirksey
Mongabay: In the essay, you talk about the fragility of happiness in a touching story about the young people you spent time with there. Later, you talk about the fragility of that moment. Was that a way of capturing that sense of possibility and then what’s happened since?
Eben Kirksey: I spent many of my days just foraging for edible insects with children who learned that in clear-cut rainforests, you have a proliferation of these delightfully tasty treats. This was a sort of happiness amidst tragedy, right? Yeah, I did find, as with a lot of forms of happiness, it was fragile, and this space of hope was destroyed in the coming years.
Mongabay: When you returned, you found that several of those kids died of malaria. That’s a poignant example of how those changes to ways of life and to the environment around us affect us.
Eben Kirksey: When I came back a few years later, a lot of these young children were dead. Many people had just fled. Often, when there’s a disease outbreak, people just disperse. In fact, [the strategy that] let these people live with malaria was being constantly on the move. Depending on the mosquito species, from the time they bite someone infected with malaria to re-infecting a new person, that’s usually about 30 or 60 days. If you’re constantly on the move, if you’re living in these bivouacs in the forest and shifting your location, you’re not going to get exposed to malaria epidemics.
This local tragedy is situated in a national context where Indonesia has used public health measures to protect certain people from malaria and while letting other people die. If you travel to Bali, for example, an international tourist destination, or if you travel to Jakarta, you’re going to be protected from malaria.

Mongabay: In the essay, you discuss the construction of the Trans-Papua Highway and about how it brings different social groups together. Can you talk about the story you used to illustrate that?
Eben Kirksey: Basically, a young man was shot dead by the side of the road – Yoteni Agapa, whose dog was killed by a speeding car. This group of boys got mad when the dog was killed and the driver sped away, so they instituted an impromptu road block and started asking other cars for money. [The Trans-Papua Highway] was built by a logging company across indigenous land that didn’t formally pay any of these people for that right to cross their land.
This acute incident of a dog getting killed, coupled with longstanding senses of social inequality [and] economic injustice connected to this road, made the boys start stopping cars and saying, ‘Hey, our dog was killed. We’re mad. Give us five bucks.’ The amount of money they asked for was basically the equivalent of a local meal at a nearby food stall.
Those drivers got mad. They went back to local security forces and told [them] what was going on, that there was this roadblock happening, and the security forces came back and started shooting the children. A number of the children sustained wounds and managed to run away. Yoteni Agapa was shot repeatedly and then his body was mutilated after he was killed.
Mongabay: When you and your colleagues reported the incident to the UN, “Power continued to function predictably,” you write. What did you mean by that?
Eben Kirksey: I studied this incident in collaboration with some regional human rights defenders. We wrote up a short allegation to the United Nations [and] filed this with the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions. And it was filed away. It exists in an archive somewhere, and nothing happened.
There are decisions being made that certain kinds of people don’t matter as much as others. The fact that a young black boy can get shot dead by the side of the road in West Papua, or in Ferguson, [Missouri,] or in many other sites in Africa or Europe, the fact that these killings are happening all the time – there aren’t adequate international legal institutions for dealing with this. I think it’s something that needs to be interrogated on a global level.
Mongabay: Can you relate that to what you’ve seen in West Papua, Indonesia, and perhaps the difference between the nationalism you talk about in your first book, Freedom in Entangled Worlds, and the nationalism we’re seeing globally now?
Eben Kirksey: Yeah, I think there’s a return to a certain form of nationalism that is dangerous in the United States right now. In contrast, my first book, about West Papua, is all about rediscovering the promise of nationalism.
If you look at the long history of colonization, the nations of early modern Europe were formed through the exploitation of India, Africa, Southeast Asia, [and] the Americas. We are at a moment where people in the United States could reclaim the positive aspects of nationalism. In the case of West Papua, I found people harboring these dreams, not of this return to the tribe, this return to a place where it would just be Papuans and all the outsiders would just be killed or expelled, but a post-colonial situation where they’re learning to live more responsibly with their global entanglements.
Mongabay: How is that playing out in West Papua?
Eben Kirksey: There’s this big U.S. gold mine there called Freeport McMoRan. To paint it with a very broad brush, they’re basically stealing the natural resources of West Papua. The largest gold deposit known is in West Papua, and that wealth is being taken away, channeled to the Indonesian government in the form of taxes, to this U.S. corporation, which is making profits and distributing the gold around the world so that we have wires in our cellphones and computers as well as wedding rings.

A picture of the open-pit Freeport McMoRan mine, taken by an astronaut in June 2005 at an elevation of 353.7 kilometers (191 nautical miles). The hole is about 4 kilometers (2.5 miles) wide. Photo ISS011-E-9620 courtesy of NASA Earth Observatory
The West Papuans [are] not envisioning a world where they’re going to claim all that wealth for themselves and say that nobody else deserves to have a share. Papuans want to channel the theft of that natural resource into a gift, with all the obligations that gift giving entails. When you give someone a gift, very often, especially in a place like Melanesia, certain things are expected in return.
When the U.S. has a USAID program or the Soviet aid programs in the Middle East or Afghanistan, this is shaping foreign policy. Papuans want to give away their gold as a gift. They want to make sure that the people of Indonesia are fed. They’re imagining a new ethical world order where nationalism isn’t done away with, but very clear ethical principles inform how this excess wealth, how the valuable things on their land, might be redistributed.
Mongabay: Is there anything else you would like to add?
Eben Kirksey: In concluding about West Papua, I would like to say it’s an incredibly vibrant, beautiful, amazingly dynamic place. As people often hear about the ongoing genocide, the political problems, that fact is lost. There are all sorts of surprising encounters you can have there. It is still, outside of the Amazon, one of the largest undisturbed tracts of rainforest in the world. This is very quickly getting destroyed by oil palm plantations.
I’d just like to draw people’s attention to this remarkably beautiful, dynamic and surprising part of the world.


  • Kirksey, E. (2017). Lively Multispecies Communities, Deadly Racial Assemblages, and the Promise of Justice. South Atlantic Quarterly, 116(1), 195-206.
  • Kirksey, E. (2012). Freedom in entangled worlds: West Papua and the architecture of global power. Duke University Press.
Editor’s note: This interview has been edited for clarity and length.
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2) PT Agriprima Cipta Persada clears the Mahuze Kewamese Clan’s Ancestral Forest.

Titus Mahuze, a resident of Afkab Makmur village in Muting District, Merauke Regency, has complained about how oil palm company PT Agriprima Cipta Persada has cleared land and ancestral forest belonging to the Mahuze Kewamese, without meeting with the community first and obtaining their agreement.
In 2015, PT ACP started to conduct a survey of land potential and concession boundaries within the ancestral land of the Mahuze Kewamese and Basik-Basik Alizan clans. The company carried out this work without holding a meeting to reach a consensus or waiting for the Mahuze Kewamese clan to reach their decision. In April 2016, PT ACP followed this up by clearing the ancestral forest and bulldozing the land which has now been planted with oil palm.
The people did not resist and made no effort to stop the company’s work. “Our clan-members could only watch and accept submissively, there was nothing we could do”, said Titus Mahuze, the leader of the Mahuze Kewamese clan.
There had once been an invitation to engage in negotiations over its use of the land, in the presence of the Mahuzes as well as other clans that own land in the area in 2014. That meeting was attended by the village head, members of the military and Titus Mahuze, but PT ACP was not present and nor were other clan members.
“The meeting was a failure and we erected markers as a customary prohibition against using land, forest and sago groves belonging to the Mahuze Kewamese clan, but then the company cleared our forest anyway”, Titus Mahuze said.
PT ACP promised it would give compensation money for the clan’s land which would be cleared and turned into an oil palm plantation. However the Mahuze Kewamese clan has still not received this money and does not even know how much it is supposed to be, and no agreement has been reached about the use of this land – even though the trees have already been felled and the land planted with oil palm.
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3) Local administrations in Papua to get Freeport shares
Jakarta | Tue, February 28, 2017 | 04:34 pm
Coordinating Maritime Affairs Minister Luhut Pandjaitan has said local administrations in Papua will get shares from PT Freeport Indonesia when the company divests its 51 percent shares, as required by a new regulation.
“Yes, they [the administration] will get [the shares]. The percentage of shares will be discussed later,” Luhut said after meeting with Mimika Regent Eltinus Omaleng in Jakarta on Tuesday as reported by tempo.co.
Luhut said the central government would also discuss with relevant parties the mechanism for which the shares would be transferred to local administrations.  
Meanwhile, after the meeting, Eltinus said Luhut mentioned the figure would be between 10 percent and 20 percent, which Luhut said had been demanded by the regent. 
Eltinus said the shares for Papuans would be distributed to the Papua administration, Timika administration and the people holding rights to customary communal land near the copper and gold mining site.
President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo signed on Jan. 11 Government Regulation (PP) No. 1/2017, a revision to PP No. 23/2010 on the implementation of the mineral and coal mining business.
Under the regulation, mining companies are required to construct a smelter as a precondition for them to export the concentrates.
The companies, including Freeport, are also required to change contracts of work (CoW) to a special mining license (IUPK). With the IUPK, foreign companies are also required to divest 51 percent of their shares. (bbn)

MSG Actions Disgrace to Melanesia: Tarimanu

MSG Actions Disgrace to Melanesia: Tarimanu

One of the Vanuatu former Senior Public Servant, Politician, customary chief and civil society leader, George Tarimanu, has come out publicly to express his views on the recent article on Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG) carried by the Daily Post on February 24.
The article was about the MSG Secretariat being sued.
“It is a total disgrace to the Melanesian People and clearly shows that the MSG Leaders are no longer cooperating nor working together for the good name of the people of the Melanesian countries that the MSG is supposed to stand up for.
“This is not the way the founders fathers of the MSG would have liked to see this happen.
“Not only it has become a disgrace to the people of Melanesia, but it has also tarnished the good name of the MSG abroad and internationally,” says the man who, not only, has held many public and political post before, during and after independence, but is also a graduate from the Public Administration Institute in London, UK and was awarded the Order of the British Empire (OBE) by Her Majesty the Queen Elizabeth, towards the end of the British and the French rule in the late 1970s.
“The MSG is a Melanesian institution which is highly regarded by the people of Melanesia as well as foreign governments around the world.
“But the latest internal developments within the Secretariat, especially the alleged treatment of the staff employment conditions, is an indication of the failure on the part of the MSG leaders in keeping close professional monitoring in the internal operations of the MSG.
“This is a total disgrace and a slap on the face of the MSG leaders,” says Tarimanu.
He alleged that in his views, the MSG Leaders have failed to cooperate in the way the Melanesian leaders should, and instead, the past months have shown that the MSG leaders are divided on certain issues, giving example of the West Papua issue and application for full membership into the Melanesian Spearhead Group as well as the appointment of the Director General, which according to George Tarimanu, was a clear indication of divisions between the MSG Leaders.
“It is high time the MSG leaders set their differences behind, if there are such differences within the MSG leadership.
Member countries should step out into the Melanesian Nasara (public ground) and show the people of Melanesia and the world that they hold fast the vision founded by the fathers of the MSG,” he said.
He calls on the MSG Secretariat to get its house in order.

Monday, February 27, 2017

1) Freeport needs to stand up to Indonesia over the CoW issue

2) Papua religious leaders calls on government to consider locals` interest
3) Showdown in Indonesia Brings World’s Biggest Gold Mine to Standstill
4) PNG group unfairly held by Indonesia last year
5) Minister: Gov’t Discusses to Take Over Freeport Mines  

1) Freeport needs to stand up to Indonesia over the CoW issue

Will Hickey Associate professor for the School of Government and Public Policy in Jakarta
Jakarta | Mon, February 27, 2017 | 05:28 pm

A copy of draft revision to Government Regulation No. 23/2010 on the management of mineral and coal businesses obtained by The Jakarta Post late on Thursday. (The Jakarta Post/Rendi A. Witular)
Normally, a 50-year mining project like Freeport’s Grassberg mine would deign it high time to turn its operations over to the local government, which would also be expedient politically.
However, in this case, Freeport is correct to stand its ground against Indonesia in insisting its contract of work (CoW) be honored, extended and not converted into a licensing agreement that has the potential to seriously disrupt operations.
Vincent Lingga in his Feb. 23 commentary in The Jakarta Post is wrong to paint this as an “arbitration ploy” by Freeport to block mining reform. Indonesia mining will certainly not reform with local owners bereft of legal enforcement. Why is this? Freeport is actually doing quite a good job with its localization initiatives in Papua, compared to that alternative, no localization. In other words, the operation is benefitting Indonesia not just with taxes, but also with human resource development.
It is commonly held knowledge in the Indonesian mining industry that Freeport and Theiss have the best mining training programs in Indonesia, followed by Newmont and BUMI Resources (courtesy of their legacy Rio Tinto and BHP operations). Western standards do in fact matter.
Freeport employs 32,000 people, many of them are well trained in best-practice mining standards and techniques, with good safety inculcated in their processes. This situation could/should be replicated in all Indonesian mining activities, not just Papua.
The real fear is that if this mine is nationalized (effectively what the divestment is), training and localization in Papua will suffer inversely. Localized owners will not carry the same safety and training mandates that Freeport does. They will also probably want to cut any “non-essential” (read: safety and environmental) staff to the bone.
If a licensing agreement (IUPK) is forced, local partners, via divestment, may insist on another avenue of production, with a lower environmental and safety risk profile, you can bet on that!
Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati is wrong to interject in this that a “management tweaking” is necessary. After her many run in with the Bakrie company she should know the reality.
These potential suitors (namely insider oligarchs favored by the Indonesian government) are playing the Indonesian nationalization card. That is simply a means to an end for them to gain control of operations either directly (Freeport divestment) or indirectly (licensing regime).
Once control is gained, any environmental promises or social obligations will quickly fly out the window because the Indonesian regulatory framework has weak enforcement power.
One needs only look further than substandard mining operations in Kalimantan that have cratered the earth with black, water filled holes for coal, or strip mined vast areas of pristine jungle for iron ore strip mining, in both cases, driving out many native and endangered species.
It is real and it has happened and will probably happen again. Freeport, as a US company, simply cannot play this game. If someone gets hurt, or standards are violated, they first of all will have to answer to the US Security and Exchange Commission (SEC) for any mal-activity that impacts shareholders.
Second, they would be subject to proceedings in a US court for personal injury, where awards damages may be unlimited.
An Indonesian company will be under no such qualms. The legal system on its own is far weaker here. If any doubt, consider the issue of uncontrolled peat burning in Sumatra, despite all the “laws” the all powerful palm oil industries continue to create haze unabated each year. Similarly, there will be no oversight authority looking out for the long-term welfare of Papuans.
Building a smelter is critical, but the focus cannot be based on hardware alone. Freeport is obviously opposed to building a smelter as the Indonesian government has proven wishy-washy on this critical investment issue for political, not economic, necessity, by allowing some concentrate to be exported.
If Indonesia is serious they need to have educational incentives in place that will enhance local know-how to actually run the smelter, lest they become giant turnkeys ran by foreign operators, mostly Chinese.
Ores or concentrate or finished product? What’s it going to be presents a “moving target”. Only the Chinese via their non-capitalism driven state-owned companies can afford to play this game of potentially unrealized “pseudo-investment” of smelter building. Of the 32 new smelters built in Indonesia since 2012, most are Chinese made.
Western companies that are responsible for quarterly profit statements to shareholders cannot take this risk.
Therefore, equating Chinese state-owned companies that operate on a realpolitik level, and not a “profit statement” like Western ones, is comparing apples to oranges. Chinese are interested in long-term resource access and they will give and take as is politically expedient.
Localization is the real key to the development of Papua, not more gimmicks like cheap fuel or cash transfers to locals.
Those things can be manipulated by insiders and rent seeking government officials, however a strong jobs program can turn the outlaid rupiah up to seven times in a community. That is what is really needed for this country.
By the time this goes to press it is unknown if Freeport will have either caved into Indonesia’s licensing demand and forfeit their longstanding contract or not. The Indonesian government should lay off Freeport until they in fact can offer a better jobs program for Papua locals than Freeport can. Right now, they can’t.
The Indonesia companies, if they gain control, that want a piece of this divestment, will not feel obligated, environmentally or socially for this same ideal in Papua, but rather in spiriting profits out as quickly as possible. Papuans will suffer with local ownership and no enforceable regulatory regime in place. That’s the bottom line.
The writer is associate professor at the School of Government and Public Policy, Jakarta and the author of Energy and Human Resource Development in Developing Countries: Towards Effective Localization, Macmillan, 2017.


2) Papua religious leaders calls on government to consider locals` interest

6 hours ago
Jakarta (ANTARA News) - Papua religious leaders have called on the government not to put aside the interest of the local community, amidst the dispute with the US mining firm PT Freeport Indonesia (FI).

"We have called for Papuans rights to be placed as significant as the current controversy between the government and PT Freeport and the minister has agreed on that," Timika bishop John Philip Saklil said, after meeting Energy and Mineral Resources Minister Ignasius Jonan to discuss the issue here, on Monday.

He has also called on the company to stop laying-off its workers.

"Whether it would continue the operation or not, the environment should be recovered. In addition, other rights, such as the fund for local community, were still unclear," John stated.

Negotiations between the government and Freeport are yet to create a positive impact to local people, he pointed out.

Previously, activists from the Mining Advocacy Network (Jatam) had called on the government and PT Freeport to consider the environmental impact for Papua rather than its business contract.

"Billions of tons of waste are spilled by PT Freeport into Papuas rivers. The environment around the mining has been deteriorated. There should be a special attention here," Melky Nahar noted.

Melky also noted that the ministerial decree on mining export would also harm local Papuans.

"I think the situation of Papuans living here is not considered seriously," he added.

Freeport has often used issues such as lay-off, refusal to close mining operation from tribal chiefs, and threats to bring the case to international arbitration.

However, the parent company Freeport McMoran Inc. has asserted that it would continue its operation in Indonesia despite possible failure to reach agreement on the contractual dispute with the government.

(Reported by Afut Syafril/Uu.S022/INE/KR-BSR/A014)

3) Showdown in Indonesia Brings World’s Biggest Gold Mine to Standstill

Last Updated: February 27, 2017 10:00 AM
 Krithika Varagur
JAKARTA-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.
Freeport Indonesia abruptly stopped production on February 10 and laid off 10 percent of its foreign workers. It employs 32,000 people in Indonesia, about 12,000 of whom are full-time employees. 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.
The Indonesian Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources could not be reached for comment on the issue.
Observers on the ground in Papua and from afar in Jakarta worry the shakeup will decimate the local economy and lead to violence in the historically unstable region. West Papua has long been a troubled territory in Indonesia and its independence movement has long been met with brutal military action.
Activist concerns
“I don’t think the government comprehended the social impact of the Freeport freeze in Mimika,” said Octovianus Danunan, editor of the Radar Timika, a local newspaper. “Freeport runs two hospitals here, gives hundreds of scholarships to local students, and of course, provides jobs to thousands of Papuans. With these layoffs, people are extremely worried; their lines of credit are vanishing as we speak.”
“These layoffs have eliminated the livelihoods of a lot of people,” said John Gobai, a member of the Papua parliament. “We have heard from indigenous people here in Timika [the site of Freeport facilities] that people are becoming sick from stress. They are falling into an abyss of stress.”
According to an internal Freeport report from 2015, about 36 percent of its full-time employees are native Papuans.
“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.
“Violence is a very big possibility,” said Andreas Harsono, a Human Rights Watch researcher. “Timika is the wild, wild east of West Papua. It's 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. I cannot imagine the situation if Freeport goes ahead with dismissing all 30,000 mining workers there.”
Gobai said there have already been some protests on Freeport headquarters and he expects there will be more going forward.
Freeport’s CEO Richard Adkerson told Reuters that the company was committed to staying in Indonesia, not least because about one-third of West Papua’s economy comes from the Grasberg mine.
Freeport’s history in Indonesia
On February 12, Adkerson issued a hard 120-day ultimatum to the Indonesian government to back down on its new demands or else face arbitration from the mining giant.
Freeport’s involvement in Indonesia dates back to the Suharto military dictatorship, which signed over 250,000 acres of West Papuan territory in 1967.
Freeport was the first foreign company to sign a contract with the new Indonesian government and, due in part to this history, it is now the single largest employer in all of Indonesia.
The company enjoyed a complicated special relationship as a “quasi-state organization for Jakarta,” as Inside Indonesia details, throughout the Suharto era, but the relationship has cooled under subsequent, democratically elected presidents.

The friction that led to this month’s impasse is a 2009 mining law that would require Freeport to build a $2.9 billion smelter (in order to move resource exports higher up in the value chain from just raw materials) and divest the majority of its shares to Indonesian ownership within 10 years.
Freeport maintains that, since its current contract runs through 2021, it doesn’t need to act on the regulations yet. But Indonesian officials, led by Mines and Energy Minister Ignasius Jonan, have ramped up pressure for Freeport to convert its contract per the 2009 law to a “Special Business License,” which precipitated today’s standoff.
Situation in flux
Both Indonesia and Freeport are likely to see monetary losses from the clash, but Indonesia seems committed to asserting its terms for collaboration. The global commodities market for ore and other natural resources has also dipped in the last year, with a particular slowdown from China.
The ground situation is likely to be in constant flux over the coming months as the Indonesian government gears up for a fight. On Monday, the government announced it is grooming a state-owned aluminum enterprise to take over the Grasberg mine if it wins arbitration with Freeport.
“What the government really needs to think about is what compensation they can give to layoff victims in the present,” said Gobai. “These people are employees, but they are also citizens.”

4) PNG group unfairly held by Indonesia last year

A Papua New Guinea man says he and several countrymen were subject to unfair incarceration in West Papua by Indonesian authorities.
23 minutes ago 
The incident occurred early last year when a small group from PNG's Western Province travelled by boat to the Indonesian port of Merauke to sell traditional items to a local buyer.
He said as was usual procedure, they first checked in with Indonesian soldiers manning the border post at Torassi, before sailing on to Merauke.
Here they were arrested by intelligence officers, questioned and then kept under house arrest for two months, while their boat and products remained confiscated.
One of the group, going by the name David John, said that among other spurious claims, they were charged with failing to get border clearance.
"But we told them, no this is all lies. Big fat lies. We've never done that. We've proved it. I've all the photos here. I took shots at the Torassi border post, of the soldiers checking our outboard motor and dinghy, clearing us to leave for Merauke."
While he and most of the group who had been held up by Indonesian authorities in Merauke were eventually able to return to PNG, without charge, they never retrieved their boat and goods.
The leader of their group however remained incarcerated in Indonesia until this month - they are hoping he can return home soon.
David John said they hadn't been compensated for their losses, adding that their families back home were very worried, not knowing what had happened to them.
He said while PNG citizens crossing the border are routinely expected to provide permits, border authorities appear to turn a blind eye to the many Indonesian traders hawking their wares in PNG coastal villages.
MONDAY, 27 FEBRUARY, 2017 | 15:10 WIB
5) Minister: Gov’t Discusses to Take Over Freeport Mines  
TEMPO.COJakarta - Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan, said that the proposal to have state-owned enterprises manage Freeport Indonesia's mines was delivered by State-Owned Minister Rini Soemarno. However, Luhut said that the government is currently discussing the mechanism to take over the mines.
"That was the proposal of the State-Owned Minister, we’ll see in the future," Luhut said on Monday, February 27, 2017.
Luhut explained that there is a possibility where state-owned enterprises would establish cooperation with the private sector to operate Freeport's mines. Luhut added that the issue is still open for many possibilities. "Well we could [pair] PT Indonesia Asahan Aluminium [Inalum] with PT Aneka Tambang [Antam], or it could be Inalum, Antam, and the private sector," Luhut explained.
Luhut however, cannot explain whether the government will decide to take over the mines by purchasing the company's divested shares, or wait until its contract of work expires.
"We'll see what's best, the options are clear, there are regulations, and there are agreements," Luhut stated.
Nevertheless, Luhut said that the government will continue to attempt to conduct negotiations with Freeport Indonesia in an attempt to find a win-win solution, without neglecting national interests.
Luhut argued that the government will strive to find the best solution to avoid international arbitration. "No one should went to international arbitration, it would be a zero sum game," Luhut stated.