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 Papua Tribe Targets Mining Giant Freeport in $30 Billion Legal Action

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BerichtOnderwerp: Papua Tribe Targets Mining Giant Freeport in $30 Billion Legal Action   Papua Tribe Targets Mining Giant Freeport in $30 Billion Legal Action Icon_minitimevr 7 aug 2009 - 13:16

August 07, 2009
Heru Andriyanto

Papua Tribe Targets Mining Giant Freeport in $30 Billion Legal Action

The Amungme tribe on Thursday filed a $30 billion lawsuit against Freeport McMoRan, one of the world’s major mining firms, for alleged damages sustained over 40 years of operations on their ancestral lands in Indonesia's Papua province.

“From 1969 to 2009, our land has been exploited and we have not had a fair share of the wealth it generates,” Titus Natkime, a lawyer for the tribe, said ahead of the lawsuit hearing at the South Jakarta District Court.

He represents about 90 Amungmes who live on the lowlands of a mountainous area in Papua’s Mimika district, where Freeport runs a gold and copper mine.

“The tribe holds the traditional rights to own the land and all its resources, but other people took away all the financial benefits from us,” the lawyer said.

The plaintiffs claim they are the legitimate owners of 2.6 million hectares of land on which the mine is located, and that the 1967 work contract between the government and Freeport was made without their approval.

They also questioned the promised trust fund of $1 million a year that they said was never received.

The tribe has further accused Freeport of the illegal eviction of indigenous people, with the support of government troops.

The lawsuit is also directed against the government and PT Indocopper Investama, a Bakrie group company, each owning a 9.36 percent stake in PT Freeport Indonesia, the local unit of the US-based mining giant.

The plaintiffs have demanded that the court fine the defendants “$20 billion for environmental damages caused by the mining activities and $10 billion for human rights violations.”

“I have lived there for more than 40 years, and things have been getting worse since Freeport started to operate,” tribal leader Yunus Omabak said.

“We live poorly in our own land, our children live poorly too. We can’t move because we have no money,” he said.

Presiding Judge Suharto suggested mediation for the parties. “You have 40 days to settle the case through dialogue. The court will appoint our judge, Ahmad Yusak, as mediator.”

Freeport spokesman Mindo Pangaribuan said in an e-mail to the Jakarta Globe that since 2001, the company had paid $25.9 million into a trust fund, $17 million of which had been withdrawn by two foundations set up by the Amungme and Kamoro tribes.

“Since 1996, PT Freeport Indonesia has allocated 1 percent of its gross revenue for a society development program, and in 2008 the partnership fund reached some $324 million,” he said.

Jakarta Globe

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