February 28, 2006
Protesters Want Freeport’s Indonesia Mine Closed
By Achmad Sukarsono
JAKARTA (Reuters) - Hundreds of native Papuans are demonstrating to demand the closure of a huge mine in Indonesia's Papua province run by the U.S. company Freeport-McMoran Copper & Gold Inc, police and witnesses said on Tuesday.In Jakarta, 100 protesters trying to enter a building that houses Freeport offices scuffled with anti-riot police, who eventually used a water cannon to help disperse the crowd.
Protesters also have staged rallies in Papua's provincial capital of Jayapura and in Timika, the nearest town to Freeport's Grasberg mine, Papuan police spokesman Kartono Wangsadisastra said.
"Yesterday, we had 700 protesters in Jayapura. Today, around 200 of them have showed up again to demand the closure of the Freeport mine while around 50 residents have erected tents in Timika to display their grievances," Wangsadisastra said.
"They want other residents to join the rallies and we are guarding them. Everything is under control over here," he said.
Antara national news agency reported members of Papuan local councils have promised the protesters a discussion with the Jakarta government on the future of the controversial mine, located in the snow-capped Papuan highlands.
Operations at Freeport's Grasberg mine, believed to have the world's third-largest copper reserves and one of the biggest gold deposits, came to a standstill for four days last week before protesters, mostly illegal miners, left the site near the town of Timika, about 3,400 km (2,100 miles) east of Jakarta.
Papuans in the Indonesian capital, Jakarta, have vented anger against Freeport over a range of issues by damaging parts of the building housing company offices last week and by protests this Monday and Tuesday.
On Tuesday, hundreds of police in anti-riot gear exchanged blows with the outnumbered protesters, who tried to strip officers of their riot helmets and plastic shields, some of which were shattered in the scuffles.
Police sprayed water at the rock-throwing protesters but that only pushed them out of the building compound.
Steps away, on one of Jakarta's busiest streets, they continued their rally loudly condemning Freeport, Indonesia's largest taxpayer.
"The police have over-reacted. This is just the beginning of our fight because we have not received anything good from Freeport. We are going to protest until Freeport is shut," said rally spokesman Marthen Goo.
So far, protesters have not reached the actual Freeport offices that occupy the higher floors of the building.
The Freeport operation has been a frequent source of controversy in Indonesia over issues ranging from its impact on the environment, to the share of revenue going to Papuans and Papua, to the legality of payments to Indonesian security forces who help guard the site.
Illegal miners often enter mining areas in Indonesia, a sprawling archipelago that is the world's fourth most populous country with huge metal deposits such as copper, gold and tin.
(Additional reporting by Telly Nathalia)