De Freeport goudmijn

De Freeport goudmijn is de grootste en belangrijkste mijn ter wereld en ligt in voormalig Nederlands Nieuw Guinea, maar geen V.N. firma had zo’n negatieve invloed op inheemse volkeren dan de Freeport goud en kopermijn in West Papua.

In 1930 organiseerden 3 Australische broers, de Leahy broers, een expeditie om goud te zoeken in het hooggebergte en vonden inderdaad goud!

In de prachtige film “First Contact” is weergegeven en te zien hoe een en ander in zijn werk ging en hoe onverwachte confrontaties met Papoea stammen verliepen. Het werd een indrukwekkende voettocht in een gebied waar Papoea’s zich toen niet bewust waren van menselijk leven buiten hun valleien

In het rapport van Christian Zöllner is te lezen dat de documenten van betreffende expeditie in een stoffige bureau lade van een Nederlandse universiteit zijn beland en dat er  niets mee werd gedaan.

Het rapport kwam in Amerikaanse handen en Amerikanen wisten hier wel raad mee.

Onder sterke invloed van Freeport kwam het New York Akkoord van 1962 tot stand en werd president J.F. Kennedy overtuigd van het grote belang om de concessierechten van betreffende toekomstige goudmijn te verkrijgen. Dat werd de deal met Indonesië, Henry Kissinger kwam in de raad van commisarissen en Nederland had het nakijken.

De oorspronkelijke bewoners, Papoea’s werden de dupe en ondanks het bestaan van het V.N. mandaat om inheemse volkeren te beschermen, heeft de wereld zelfs meegeholpen en toegestaan dat het Referendum van 1969, het zelfbeschikkingsrecht van de Papoea’s werd verkwanseld.

De film “First Contact” is een keer op TV uitgezonden, jaren geleden, maar is nu gedeeltelijk te zien via Google:  klik: “First Contact”

Bekijk de film en bedenk hierbij hoe belangrijk dit gebeuren de geschiedenis van de Papoea’s zou beïnvloeden!

Freeport is de grootste belastingbetaler van Indonesië geworden en is volledig door militairen afgegrendeld en waar nog steeds regelmatig schermutselingen



De Freeport goudmijn: Lees het rapport van Christan Zöllner:


I have learned about the Grasberg mine through my grandfather. For several years he

has worked as a missionary in Western New Guinea and still is very engaged in favour

of Papuan interests. On some of his recent trips he had visited the mine and later told

me about it.

It turned out that my grandfather was also very helpful finding material on this thrilling

topic. I really appreciate that he “plundered” the library of his former missionary

organization to find sources that I could hardly have found elsewhere.

He also provided me with several photos, among them the impressive cover photograph.

– 3 –

(1) Introduction

Most people probably will be surprised to hear that the world’s largest gold mine is not

in Africa, but in New Guinea, Asia. This mine, which is called Grasberg is located in

the Surdiman Range, the western part of New Guinea’s Central Range1. The mine is

located at latitude 4° 3′ S and longitude 137° 7′ E in the Indonesian province of Papua.

The Grasberg mine is run by PT Freeport Indonesia, a subsidiary of the American

mining giant Freeport-McMoRan Copper and Gold, and the Rio Tinto Group2, which is

another of the world’s largest mining companies. Their Grasberg operation is

exceptional in more than one way. It is not only the largest gold mine but also the third

largest copper mine in the world and it is so remote that it is regarded one of the most

difficult mines ever constructed. But Grasberg also is very controversial. The Grasberg

operation made the Government Pension Fund of Norway mark FCX-stocks as not

ethical. Both press and NGOs criticise Freeport heavily. The accusations range from

“causing severe environmental damage” (WALHI, 2006, 110) to maintaining close

financial contacts to the Indonesian military, “which has one of the worst human rights

records anywhere ” (Perlez and Bonner, 2006).

In this paper I will not only analyse the mine’s impressive technical aspects, but also

work on its impacts on the region. I will focus on the environmental effects and,

concerning Papua’s population, the role of the Indonesian military and Freeport’s

“Company commitment” programme in order to find out whether or not the accusations

are true.

(2) History of the Grasberg mine

History of West New Guinea

The first Europeans to enter New Guinea were Spanish explorers in the middle of the

16th century, but the first to show real interest in the island were the Dutch about a

century later. Still, it was not until 1848 that the Dutch finally took possession of the

whole New Guinea west of longitude 141° E.

In 1900 the Dutch seriously started exploring the island and in the following decades

sponsored 140 expeditions. Most of these were looking for petrol. Among the oildrillers

were three Dutch climbers, who in their spare time tried to climb the (until then)

1 Also referred to as Maoke Mountains (Pegunungan Maoke in Indonesian), formerly known as Snow


2 Since 1995, the Grasberg operation is run as a joint venture. For an initial payment of $1.7 billion, Rio

Tinto received 40% of all the profits deriving from the amount of ore that exceeds the 1994

production level. In 2005 that was 40% of a daily 110,00 tons. The mine still is run entirely by PT

Freeport Indonesia.

– 4 –

unscaled Carstenz Glaciers. On their trip geologist Jean Jaques Dozy noted an

extremely huge and rich body of copper ore which he named Ertsberg (Dutch for Ore

Mountain). Dozy saw the value of the deposit, but “realized that nobody could do

anything with it. […] It was like a mountain of gold on the moon.” (as quoted in Mealey,

1996, 71)

During the second World War, the Japanese conquered New Guinea, but were soon

driven away by the Americans who handed the territory back to the Netherlands. In

1949 the Dutch had to accept Indonesia’s independence but kept West New Guinea.

Indonesia also wanted this territory and even tried an invasion. The UN intervened and

put the colony under Indonesian administration in the New York Agreement of 1962.

For 1969, the agreement scheduled a vote for West Papua’s inhabitants between

Indonesian rule and founding its own nation. In this election, called Act of Free Choice3,

the about 1000 Papuans appointed to vote unanimously chose Indonesian rule.

Meanwhile, the last few copies of Dozy’s report about the discoveries of his Carstenzexpedition,

which included the notion of Ertsberg, lay forgotten in dusty Dutch

university libraries. Only by chance the report got into the hands and attracted the

immediate attention of Forbes Wilson, chief of exploration of an American company

named Freeport Sulphur.

History of Freeport

The Freeport Sulphur Company arose out of a syndicate of Texan enterprisers in 1912.

Its portfolio included the patents for the so called Frash process, at that time by far the

most efficient sulphur extraction process, which ensured the company a bright future.

The syndicate had founded the company in order to build the United State’s second

Frash process mine. This mine included a company town on the Gulf of Mexico with

“free port” for the distribution of the sulphur. This part of the project gave the company

its name. When the mine began producing in late 1911, “Freeport entered the mining

industry as one of the major producers of […] sulphur” (Mealy, 1996, 26).

The company grew, and in the 1930s Freeport with its three sulphur mines began

looking for other minerals to mine. It invested into international nickel operations, oil

drilling and fertilizers. The Ertsberg project became the biggest operation of the

worldwide diversification of Freeport’s actions in the 1960s. Copper and gold mining as

well as chemicals became the company’s main concerns. In 1981 Freeport merged with

McMoRan Oil and Gas.

In the 1990s, the company was divided into two companies: Freeport-McMoRan, which

included the fertilizer and chemical departments and was later brought by the fertilizer

giant IMC, and Freeport-McMoRan Copper and Gold. The latter owned all mining

operations, including the rapidly expanding PT Freeport Indonesia with all its

Indonesian operations. Especially the highly profitable Grasberg deposit enabled

Freeport-McMoRan to buy the larger mining rival Phelps Dodge for more than $25

billion thus creating “the world’s largest publicly traded copper company”. (New York

Times, 2007).

Establishing and Mining Ertsberg

Although an initial expedition was made 8 years before, it was not until 1967 that

Freeport picked up its plans for the Ertsberg once again4. A contract of work (COW)

was signed with the Indonesian government and test drills proved huge deposits.

Although a feasibility study predicted only marginal profits, Freeport found investors to

put up the required $200 million. The mine itself and the mill were put up and

connected by a tramway. The town of Tembagapura (“Copper City”) was built at about

half the height of the mine in the highland. A port was created and connected to the mill

by a 101-km access road. By this road a slurry line was installed to pump liquid copper

from the mill to the port (Mealey, 1996, 79f).

The mine started producing in 1972. In the following years Feeeport, by continuous

investment into the Ertsberg open pit mine and later with the GBT (Ertsberg East)

underground deposit, “produced 32 million tons of copper, gold and silver” (Leith,

2003, 64).

Establishing Grasberg

Freeport of course continued looking for further deposits within the COW area and

heavily invested into its programs throughout the 1980s. In 1988 the discovery of

Grasberg (Dutch for “Grass Mountain”) deposit5, an El Dorado which held the largest

single gold reserves and the third largest copper reserves ever found. This changed the

operation from one “struggling to stay alive to one in rapid expansion” (Mealy, 1996,

23). This expansion began with the “32K Program”, which included an upgrade of mill

capacities to 32,000 tons a day (hence the name), an open pit that produced 10,000 tons

a day (the rest still came from Ertsberg East), an ore tramway on top of a mountain

ridge between the new Grasberg pit and the (by then empty) Ertsberg open pit (from

there the old Ertsberg tramway could bring the ore to the mill) and expansions for

several other parts of the infrastructure. In the following years Freeport spent more than

$700 million on Grasberg mining programs.

The mine’s continuing growth resulted in the “115K Program”, which was finished in

1995. This expansion alone required $1 billion of financing Freeport obtained by selling

minor operations and subsidiaries all over the world and privatizing huge parts of the

Indonesian operation not directly involved in the mining, like dormitories, worker’s

transportation and the Timika hospital. The expansion required “$300 million for the

mill expansion, more than $200 million for the heavy equipment, and $250 million for

the ore flow system” (Mealey, 1996, 179). Bringing the heavy equipment from the mill

to the mine was the most difficult part of the operation, as neither the ore tramway nor

the bulldozer track could be used to bring up the 45 Caterpillar 793s trucks which each

can carry more than 200 tons of rock. The solution was called HEAT (Heavy

Equipment Access Trail), a road that needed 22 months to be completed, is up to 20%

steep and is more than twice as long as the air-distance between mill and mine. This

expansion and several smaller ones that followed made Grasberg what it is today: The

lowest-cost copper mine in the world.

(3) The Grasberg mine today

The process of mining

As the Grasberg pit is located at an altitude of 4,720 metres and therefore nearly

constantly clouded, satellites have to be used to direct the huge mining trucks from the

hydraulic shovel inside the 2.5-kilometre-wide pit to either the overburden stockpiles or

the ore crushers. Of the approximately 1 million tons of rock moved each day through

the whole year, only 230,000 tons are rich enough6 and sent to the crushers, which are

positioned at an elevation of about 3,800 meters, the rest is dumped at the stockpiles

around the pit. On its way to the mill the refined ore goes through a system of ore passes

and conveyor belts where it nearly looses another kilometre in altitude.

At the mill, the ore is at first reduced to fine gravel of a size of partly less than 40 μm7.

This powder is mixed with a special cocktail of chemicals, which makes the metal

particles gather at the surface so that they can be separated from the rest. This process is

called “floating” and produces 6,900 tons of a powdery concentrate every day, which

has a metal concentration of about 30%. The remaining 97% of the ore that is brought

into the mill, the so called tailings, are dumped as well. Mixed with water, the

concentrate becomes a slurry that is pumped through a 109-kilometre-steel-pipeline to

the port of Amampare on the coast. From there it is transported to smelters all around

the world. The smelter that receives the largest share of Grasberg ore is one on the

Indonesian island of Java8. Combined, these smelters finally produce 2000 tons of

copper, 400 kilograms of silver and 240 kilograms of gold a day that then is sold on the

world market (Poth, 2008).

Mining infrastructure

Until 2001 Freeport had invested about $4.5 billion into its West Papuan operation, $3.5

billion of it after the discovery of Grasberg. Most of it went into infrastructure and

material required for the mining itself. The heart of the operation of course is the pit,

which is constantly expanded by “one of the largest fleets of heavy-duty mining

equipment in the world” (Mealey, 1996, 173). These huge vehicles bring the ore to

crushers which produce a rough gravel that is further transported by the conveyor

system. This system consists of a network of several parallel conveyor belts so that the

ore flow does not stop when one of the belts breaks, which happens relatively often. A

useful part of this network are the so called ore passes. In them, the ore is dropped

several 100 meters and further compressed through the force of the free fall.

The mill with its several crushers and concentrators is built on an artificially expanded

plateau. This plateau also hosts the diesel-run power plants that provide the mill with

energy. Next to ore and electricity, the mill also requires a lot of water. The rainwater

that collects itself inside the Grasberg pit is pumped to the mill through an adit and for

shortages Lake Wilson (the former Ertsberg pit) offers reserves.

The lifeline of the whole operation certainly is the 109-kilometre access road, which is

very damageable and therefore constantly maintained by a crew of 180 men with an

annual budget of $5 million.

Secondary infrastructure

The 17,000 workers employed by PT Freeport Indonesia and its subcontractors are

accommodated in several “company towns”. The oldest of these is Tembagapura, which

was constructed at the very beginning of the Ertsberg operation and is the one nearest

to the mine. The most exclusive is Kuala Kencana. For half a billion dollars Freeport

constructed this western-styled township surrounded by New Guinea’s jungle with

commodities ranging from shopping centres to an 18-hole golf course. The only town

that derives out of a Papuan village is Timika, located at about half the distance between

the coast and the mill, which hosts several Freeport related organizations. In this town

one can also find the Sheraton hotel, a luxury hotel the company built for its guests.

The copper, gold and silver market

While Freeport reduced its production costs even further, the prices for metal went up

dramatically. In 2006, one could earn $3,000 with one ton of copper, two years later the

price had risen to $8,000 (Poth, 2008). Gold and silver prices also rose. In January 2008

the price for gold reached $900 per ounce, which is about $32 per gram. At the moment,

the silver prices are at about $16 per ounce or $0.5 per gram. Calculating with these

prices, Freeport’s output sells for $23 million a day (

The rise is connected to the high demand in industrializing countries like China or India,

especially for industrial metals like copper. The prices are predicted to grow even


(4) Impacts on the population

Population of Western New Guinea

The two Indonesian provinces Papua and West Papua that make up Western new

Guinea have a combined total population of about 2.5 million people. About half of

these are, mainly Christian, Papuan natives. The other half of the population is made up

by Indonesians that were resettled there from overcrowded isles like Java. They are

mainly Muslims and live in the more urban areas, where they form the upper class,

control the local governments and discriminate against the Papuans.

Freeport’s operation is located in the Mimika district, which has a population of about

120,000 people. Before the beginning of the mining operation, the COW area was

mainly populated by two Papuan tribes. The Amungme, who dwell in the highlands and

make a living with agriculture. Some of their villages had to be relocated to gain space

for Tembagepura and the growing overburden stockpile. The other tribesmen are

Kamoro, fisherman that live in the lowlands near the rivers. They badly suffered from

the tailings that were pumped in their rivers and poisoned their fish, until the affected

villages were relocated as well. Today these tribes and the other Papuans that moved to

the area are only a minority, which, with less than 20%, is also under-represented in

Freeport’s workforce. Only recently Freeport applied a policy that new jobs are first

offered to local tribesmen, then to other Papuans and only then to Indonesians from

other islands.

– 9 –

Company commitment and the 1% fund

For a long time Freeport was largely ignorant of the social situation in its COW area.

Freeport’s only interest in the locals was to keep them away from the mine and Suharto’s

military did a great job there. It was not until 1995, when NGOs smuggled reports of

oppression and human rights violations out of Indonesia and made it an international

headline, that the company began thinking about development programs. In 1996,

serious riots did great damage to the infrastructure so that the mine had to be closed

down for some time. Immediately the development programs that had been in

discussion were implemented. The main part of these was the so called 1% fund, in

which PTFI until today invests 1% of its annual gross revenue, approximately $15

million annually. From this fund, social development programs are funded.

In the beginning, the money was distributed among the local government agencies and

NGOs, but this did not prove to be very efficient. Since the second year of the fund, the

money is directly managed by the company. The money was invested into projects such

as housing for natives, medical facilities that offer free treatment, schools, a

transportation network and scholarships. Parallel to this, Freeport provides projects like

a community affairs department with a staff of 80 employees, a malaria control program

and the so called Land Right Trust Fund for the benefit of the local Amungme and

Kamoro. Today the company invests about 2% of its gross revenue into its many social


The role of the TNI

In times of president Suharto, the Indonesian constitution required the military (TNI) to

protect facilities of national importance. Since its beginnings, the Freeport operation

belonged to these facilities. Although not explicitly said in the COW, the Indonesian

government required the company to provide infrastructure like barracks and offices for

government agencies such as police and military, and to grant them free access to its

facilities. The military did its job and for decades protected the mine without getting

much international attention.

Of course, the relationship between the TNI and the company was quite controversial

for some time, but it was not until 2002 that it would become an important topic. In

August of that year, a party of teachers working for PTFI was ambushed, two

Americans and one Indonesian died. An initial police report proposed that the TNI had

staged the ambush to convince Freeport of additional payments9. This triggered an

international discussion, in the course of which Freeport admitted having paid $35

million for housing and offices and $5 million annually for the site’s protection. Still

NGOs believe in a much deeper relationship with much more money being paid. They

also claim that until 2002, much of the money did not go to the military as an institution

but to high ranking individuals, which is strictly forbidden by the US Foreign Corrupt

Practices Act. Neither of this can be proved or denied, as Freeport does not disclose its


In 2004 a presidential decree ruled that industrial facilities are to be guarded by the

police forces instead of the military. The guard changed in 2006. 600 policemen were

moved in to reinforce the 100 local policemen, and half of the formerly 700 soldiers

were removed. The remaining forces now are officially fighting the OPM instead of

protecting the mine, but still operate in the mine’s immediate surroundings.

Human rights

Ever since the founding of Indonesia, the country’s constitution guaranteed human

rights to everyone. But in order to hold the nation together and to make personal profit,

the Suharto regime ignored this fact. As the national government did not care, the

regional government virtually did not exist and the corrupt military was the only

authority in the area, many human rights violations occurred within the COW area at

that time. Indonesia’s transmigration program, that brings Javanese people to the areas

traditionally inhabited by Papuans and Freeport’s relocation of natives from areas which

had great cultural meaning to them are commonly regarded as human rights violations.

But the most vital violation were the means both TNI and company security forces used

to control the population. Things worsened in 1994, when the COW was expanded and

the OPM resistance led to the killing of a Freeport worker. The company requested

additional soldiers from the TNI which “systematically terrorized the local population

with summary executions, murder, arbitrary arrest, detention, torture, intimidating,

surveillance, destruction of property and unexplained disappearances.” (Leith, 2003,

169f) The campaign did not only lead to hundreds of refugees hiding in the jungle and

37 dead citizens, but also to human rights reports that leaked to the outside world in

1995 and attracted international attention.

The public pressure put an end to the TNI’s campaign. To recover its reputation, the

company blamed the TNI and stated that its own personnel did not have anything to do

with the human rights violations. But still it has to bear a part of the blame. It not only

requested the military but also knew about the violations, which partly even took place

in company facilities, and failed to report them to any authority. The military saved face

by distributing among its soldiers booklets on how to treat Papuans.

– 11 –

Since this incident, and especially since the fall of Suharto, the military maintains a low

profile in the COW area and the company itself applies a strict human rights policy.

(5) Impacts on the environment


There are two types of waste that a mine like Grasberg produces and that are potentially

dangerous for the environment. One of these is the so called overburden, rock that is not

worth being processed but that has to be removed in order to access richer deposits.

About 25% of this rock is ordinary limestone which has to be brought away to prevent

the pit walls from getting to steep. It causes no severe environmental damage apart from

the fact that it is piled on the untouched alpine environment and destroys parts of the

ecosystem. The other 75% of the overburden contain small amounts of metals.

The overburden piles are a source of erosion and likely to collapse. The most severe

stockpile collapse until now has hit a lake and caused a 15 meter high wave that killed

four people and swept several toxics from the mine wastes into the valleys, especially

acid rock drainage, short ARD.

“ARD is an oxidation process which produces acid and releases heavy metals from the mineral

form, enabling these pollutants to leave the mine site or tailings deposition area,

and migrate into other environments through groundwater and surface water

drainage. Impacts from ARD can have a delayed onset […] and it is probable that

wherever large volumes of acid-generating rock are excavated that there will be

some kind of long-term impact.” (Kempton, H. on a 2003 conference as quoted

by WALHI, 2006, 53)

Since the very beginning of the operation, one can observe copper-blue water in the

waterbodies below the piles, a clear sign for ARD. The danger of ARD is that through

the groundwater this might get into the local food chain. It is estimated that by 2003,

already 1,300 tons of ARD producing rock were on the overburden stockpiles. About

80% of this rock’s metal content will leach out as ARD over the next decade. With the

further expansion of the pit, more and more of the overburden will be acid-neutralizing

limestone, but this will by no means be enough to balance the enormous amounts of

ARD that will be set free.

PTFI estimates that until the end of open pit mining in 2014, 3 billion tons of

overburden will be produced, other sources talk of up to 4 billion tons (WALHI, 2006,



The chemical separation at the ore mill filters the richest 3% out of the Freeport ore.

The other 97% are the so called tailings, that are released directly into the local river

– 12 –

system and flushed away into the lowland. This method is called “riverine tailings

disposal” and is only practised by a handful of mines. Most mines construct dams to

collect the tailings slurry in a remote valley. Furthermore it is a standard procedure to

pipe the tailings to more adequate areas if such a dam cannot be constructed near the

respective mine. Freeport does neither, but claims that after extensive studies “riverine

tailings disposal” was found to be the safest and best possible alternative.

The released tailings are potentially very dangerous for the environment. As the mill

filters out only 86% of the copper from the ore, the tailings still contain the remaining

14% of it and are a potential source of ARD. One also can find remains of the chemicals

used for the separation of the ore. But the danger from ARD and chemicals is disputed,

because the limestone from the riverbeds could neutralize large amounts of these, but it

is impossible to say how much exactly. What is indisputable is the physical destruction

of large areas of lowland rainforest where the slurry collects in the 230 km2 large Ajkwa

Deposition Area (ADA) where it mounts up to 15 meters.

It is estimated that until 2005, 1 billion tons of tailings were produced and that during its

lifetime, a total of 3 billion tons of tailings will come from the Grasberg open pit.

The Indonesian government’s position

Under Suharto, the Indonesian government largely ignored Freeport’s environmental

records. They needed the money that could be made with New Guinea’s vast resources.

Whenever parts of the Indonesian bureaucracy demanded more regulations and

accountability, the close ties to the president and his elites paid off. “Suharto simply had

no interest in demanding anything that would limit the profits of his favourite

transnational.” (Leith, 2003, 185). Even the borders of the World Heritage-listed

Lorentz National Park, which is located east of the COW area, were modified to enable

Freeport access to the profitable deposits.

The fall of Suharto’s government in 1998 changed things. Especially president Wahid’s

(1999 – 2001) minister of environment Sonny Keraf tried to make companies like

Freeport accountable for environmental impacts of its operation and add certain clauses

to the COW. The former US secretary of state Henry Kissinger, by that time Freeport-

McMoRan Copper and Gold board member was send to negotiate with president

Wahid, who ordered his minister to stop. Kissinger stayed with Wahid as unpaid advisor

and maintained Freeport’s influence on the government. Freeport was not as successful

with later Indonesian governments, but still is economically very important, being

Indonesia’s largest single taxpayer, and therefore has a special status.

As nearly any country in the world, today’s Indonesia has laws to limit environmental

– 13 –

damage, like a Fresh Water Quality law or a Hazardous Waste Law that of course also

apply for Freeport’s operation. But the problem is not a lack of environmental

regulations but the difficulties enforcing them. The Indonesian government has to rely

on Freeport’s own measurements. In 2006 it was announced that the ministry of

environment would conduct its own studies, but until today none were done (WALHI,

2006, 47). The external studies that are made are all funded by Freeport and therefore

are not regarded as very reliable. Until today, Freeport does not allow independent

assessment, even the NGOs can only guess.

Freeport’s actions

“Freeport and a number of NGOs have for years been locked in a power struggle”

concerning the environmental impacts of its mining operation (Leith, 2003, 181).

Before 1998, with nearly no regulation laws and a government that did obstruct the

work of NGOs, the company had not done much in environmental matters. The only

notable action was the building of levees on both sides of the ADA to collect the

tailings that would otherwise have flooded the access road and the town of Timika. But

with the Suharto government gone and the NGOs campaigning in the US and lobbying

possible investors, the pressure on Freeport was high enough to enlarge investments.

“Today the company states that it is spending more than $40 million annually on

environmental programs, and it estimates that environmental management and

monitoring costs for the mines life will be approximately $1.6 billion.” (Leith, 2003,

186) This programs focus on the lowlands and include the building of laboratories, the

exploration of the unique landscape and the recultivation of the ADA. Despite these

recent efforts, the damage done in the operation’s early history “is extensive,

irreversible, and predicted to last into the next century.” (Leith, 2003, 252)

(6) The Future

As the lowest-cost copper mine, Grasberg alone certainly has a bright future. In 2014,

underground mining of the lower Grasberg deposits will replace the open pit mining and

make the deposit profitable for at least another century. But Grasberg is not the only

part of the Indonesian operation that will be of importance in the next years. The 1991

COW did not only include mining rights for the 100 km2 Ertsberg/Grasberg area.

Together with another treaty from 1994, it gave Freeport exclusive exploration and

mining rights in an area of about 36,000 km2 in the Western New Guineas highlands for

up to 50 years. So far, the extensive exploration program has been successful:

“Mining will start on at least three other ore deposits in the next 10 years. These will also be

underground mines, however, exploration has reportedly identified about 70 other potential

– 14 –

mining sites within the PTFI concession areas, at least one of which has the potential to be

developed into another open pit mining operation.” (WALHI, 2006, 21)

Especially with the recent surge in metal prices this promises huge profits for Freeport.

But this may also be a source of further trouble. The environmental and social NGOs,

well organized and active as never before will continue with their resistance. Since the

dismissal of president Wahid Freeport has lost much influence on a government which,

becomes more and more self confident in dealing with foreign capital.

(7) Conclusion

After all I can say that the Grasberg mine certainly is one of the technically most

complex and economically most successful projects of today’s mining industry. But as

impressive as that might be, there still is the other side of the coin, dominated by

corruption, human rights violations and the destruction of the environment. These

aspects were, in the first place, the basis for all the technical and economical

superlatives the mine has today. Nowadays however, the ruthless policy gets back at

Freeport. The lack of both social and environmental policies in the project’s early years

now begin to cost the company astronomically high amounts of money.

And this trend will continue. I think that there are even more points that have to be

added to Freeport’s record of failures, and because of them more and more long-term

costs will arise. We still can only guess what the final consequences of the ARDproducing

overburden will be. Freeport still does not allow independent environmental

assessments and publishes virtually nothing its high tech environmental laboratory has

found out. The most probable reason I can imagine for this is that there is something

serious to hide.

But despite all the this I am convinced that a well situated and powerful company like

Freeport-McMoRan will continue its mining operation in Western New Guinea over the

next decades and that this operation will continue to be very profitable, especially when

there remains such a high demand for metal in the world.

One can only hope that Freeport’s next projects in the area will achieve a better balance

of social, environmental and economic aspects. Therefore, it is necessary that the NGOs

continue to campaign. And for this, media like the Internet delivers a good basis,

making it impossible for a company like Freeport, however remote it may operate, to do

so secretly. This ever-growing international transparency will further reduce the

companies possibilities to reach its aims by means of bribery and corruption.





ADA – Ajkwa Deposition Area

ARD – Acid Rock drainage, also called AMD (Acid Metal Drainage)

COW – Contract of Work

FCX – Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold’s shortage on the stock market

GBT – Gunung Bijih Timur (East Ore Mountain)

HEAT – Heavy Equipment Access Track

NGO – Non governmental Organization

OPM – Organisasi Papua Merdeka (Free Papua Movement)

PTFI – PT Freeport Indonesia, a subsidiary of FCX

TNI – Tentera Nasional Indonesia (Indonesian Defence Forces), the Indonesian army

WALHI – Wahana Lingkungan Hidup Indonesia (Indonesian Forum for Environment)

Additional Material

The more than 2 kilometres wide open Grasberg pit

in 2006, photo from WAHLI 2006.

A photograph of the COW area with the Ertsberg

pit in front and the much larger Grasberg pit in the

background. Photo from WAHLI 2006.

Huge mining trucks transporting ore out of the pit,

photo from Global Witness 2005.

A replacement part for the mining equipment is

brought up the HEAT. Photo by Siegfried Zollner.

– 16 –

A map of the Freeport COW Block A area. Block A contains only the Ertsberg and Grasberg operations.

The COW Block B area is much larger and contains most of the Western New Guinean highland. This

map was taken from Leith 2003.

– 17 –

One of Grasberg’s overburden stockpiles, photo

from WALHI 2006. One of the villages Freeport built to house the

relocated antives, photo by Siegfried Zollner.

Ruined rainforest in the ADA tailings deposit,

photo by Siegfried Zollner. A view on the ADA area some time later, from

WHALI 2006.

Indonesian police guards near the mine site, photos from Global Witness 2005.


Banks, G., Paull, D. and Mockler, S., The Social and Environmental Impact of Mining in Asia-

Pacific: The Potential Contribution of a Remote-Sensing Approach, Canberra 2005

< >

Global Witness, Paying for Protection – The Freeport mine and the Indonesian security

forces, 2005

< >

– 18 –

Hafield, Emmy, Freeport’s 1999 External Audit: An Independent Review?, Biak 2000

Leith, Denise, The Politics of Power – Freeport in Suharto’s Indonesia, Honolulu 2003,

university of Hawai’i Press

Mealey, George A., Grasberg – Mining the richest and most remote deposit of copper

and gold in the world in the mountains of Irian Jaya, Indonesia, Singapore 1996,

Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold Inc.

Montgomery Watson Indonesia, External Environmental Audit 1999 (excluding social,

cultural and economic impacts) of PT Freeport Indonesia Operations, Irian Jaya,

Indonesia, Jakarta 1999

Myerson, Allen R., IMC to Buy Freeport-McMoran Inc. for $750 Million, in: New

York Times 1997 / 7 / 29

< >

New York Times, Copper Merger Is Approved, in: New York Times 2007 / 3 / 15

< >

Perlez, J. and Bonner, R., Below a Mountain of Wealth, a River of Waste, in: New

York Times 2005 / 12 / 27


+Wealth%2C+a+River+of+Waste&st=nyt >

Perlez, J. and Bonner, R., Recklessness in Indonesia, in: New York Times 2006 / 1 / 9

< >

Poth, Hartmuth, lecture about Freeport, Universitat Bochum 2008

< notes printed in Additional Sources >

PTFI Public Relations Department, Briefing Information, Timika 1998

WALHI, The Environmental Impacts of Freeport-Rio Tinto’s Copper and Gold Mining

Operation in Papua, Jakarta 2006

< >


Zollner, Dr. Siefried, Chronologie Freeport zur Orientierung, 2007

< printed in Additional Sources >

Zollner, Dr. Siefried, personal interview, February 2008

Additional Sources

Mitschrift von Dr. Siegfried Zöllner zur Vorlesung von OStR Hartmuth Poth uber

Freeport, Universitat Bochum, am 17. 1. 2008

Tägliche Förderung : 2000 t Kupfer

400 kg Silber

– 19 –

240 kg Gold

aus ca. 230.000 t Gestein, wovon 97% Abraum sind.

Verbleiben 6.900 t verwertbares Erz taglich. Dies Erz wird uber Pipelines an den

Hafen transportiert und in Java verarbeitet.

Brutto Jahresertrag in US $: 1,4 Milliarden

Der Weltmarktpreis von Kupfer pro Tonne (t):

2006 3.000 US $

2008 8.000 US $

Pyrite Oxidation

Zu den Langzeitfolgen gehort ein chemischer Prozess, der sich in der

Haldenablagerung bildet und zur Saurebildung fuhrt. Gefahrlich, da die Saure in den

Nahrungskreislauf gelangt.

Die Formeln:

FeS2 + O2 + H2O 2H2SO4 + Cu2+ + Fe (OH)3

CuFeS2 + O2 + H2O H2SO4 + Cu2+ + Fe (OH)3 + SO4



Dr. Siegfried Zöllner – Chronologie Freeport zur Orientierung

1967 Vertrag mit Indonesien (Problematisch: Erst 1969 bekam Indonesien die volle

Souveranitat uber West-Neuguinea)

ca.1971 Beginn des Aufbaus Ausbeutung des sog. Ertsberg

ca.1985 Eroffnung der sog. Grasbergmine (Grasberg, ein Berg ganz in der Nahe vom


1991 Erweiterung der Freeport – Konzession auf 2,6 Mill. Ha., gultig fur 30 Jahre

1995 Erster bekannt gewordener MR-Bericht der kath. Kirche, ubernommen von AI.

1996 (Marz) Aufstand der Bevolkerung, Brande, Zerstorung Reaktiondes

Unternehmens: Einsetzung des sog. 1% Fond (wird bis heute gezahlt)

1998 Die ind. Umweltorganisation Walhi klagt gegen Freeport

1998 Suharto tritt zuruck, polit. Lockerung

99/2000 Fur ein Jahr ist Abdurrahman Wahid Prasident. Hat einen mutigen

Umweltminister, Sony Keraf, der den Arbeitvertrag mit Freeport neu aushandeln

will. Freeport und USA schicken Henry Kissinger als Vermittler nach Jakarta

– 20 –

2000 erscheint der Umwelt – Audit der Fa. Montgomery-Watson, sehr kritisiert, weil

von Freeport finanziert

31.8.2002 Uberfall einer bewaffneten Gruppe auf zwei Kleinbusse des

Bergbauunternehmens Freeport in der Nahe der Minenstadt Tembagapura. Zwei

amerikanische und ein indonesischer Lehrer der internationalen Schule sterben,

10 Personen werden verletzt, unter ihnen Amerikaner und Indonesier. Die Polizei

stost auf Indizien dafur, dass die beruchtigten Sondereinheiten Kopassus hinter

dem Uberfall stehen. Schwere Belastung des Verhaltnisses Indonesien – USA.

Haupttater: Antonius Wamang (In Jakarta inzwischen zu lebenslanglich


23.-25.8.2003 Strasenschlachten in Timika anlasslich des Versuchs von

Regierungsbeamten, die Provinz Mittel-Irian-Jaya auszurufen. Die Unruhen

fordern funf Tote. Die Provinz Mittel-Irian-Jaya kommt vorlaufig nicht zustande.

9.10.2003 Schweres Ungluck in der Mine (Erdrutsch in der Grube), 8 Tote

2004 regelt ein Prasidentenerlass, dass nicht mehr das Militar, sondern die Polizei fur

den Schutz von Unternehmen zustandig sein soll.

16.3.2006 Demonstration von Studenten mit der Forderung, die Freeport-Mine zu

schliesen. Es kommt zu Kampfen mit der Polizei, vier Polizisten und ein Militar

werden von Demonstranten getotet. Zahlreiche Studenten werden von der Polizei

gesucht, viele fliehen nach PNG. (Voraus gingen im Februar Demonstrationen

in Timika, der Grund: Das Goldwaschen an den Abwassern unterhalb der Mine

wurde vom Militar untersagt.)

– 21 –


Hiermit versichere ich, dass ich die Arbeit selbststandig angefertigt, keine anderen als

die angegebenen Hilfsmittel benutzt und die Stellen, die im Wortlaut oder im

wesentlichen Inhalt aus anderen Werken entnommen wurden, mit genauer

Quellenangabe kenntlich gemacht habe.

Verwendete Informationen aus dem Internet sind der Lehrerin vollstandig im Ausdruck

zur Verfugung gestellt worden.

Mulheim, den 11.02.08




4.10.2008: From report 53: WPAT en Etan overhandigen verklaring over Freeport


Op 24.9.2008 overhandigden de mensenrechten organisaties WPAT en ETAN een verklaring

over de Freeport praktijken tijdens een mensenrechten senaat zitting.

Het ging over het onttrekken van natuurlijke bronnen, milieu vervuiling, gezamenlijke verantwoordelijkheid en wetshandhaving.


Er zijn maar weinig voorbeelden te noemen van V.N. firma’s die zo’n negatieve invloed op

inheemse volkeren hebben gehad dan de Freeport goud en koper mijn, die gedurende 40 jaar in West Papua deze mijn heeft geëploiteerd.


Men maakte zich schuldig aan mensenrechten schennis en milieu vervuiling. Men betaalt militairen in ruil voor bescherming. Dit terwijl het leger de provocatie zoekt om hun voortdurende aanwezigheid in het gebied te rechtvaardigen.

Protesten van de lokale bevolking worden met geweld beantwoord.

Deze dodelijke cyclus moet stoppen. De V.N. politiek kan hier ingrijpen en de militaire hulp schorsen totdat hervormingen werkelijk worden doorgevoerd.

Lees de volledige verklaring en aanvullende documenten:


5.11.2008  from report 54: Senate Testimony Regarding Freeport’s Impact on The Lives of Papuans

Abi Abrash Walton — assistant to the President of Antioch University of New England for sustainability and social justice and associate core faculty in the Environmental Advocacy and Organizing Program — provided testimony which was read into the record of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Human Rights and the Law for its September 24, 2008, hearing on “Extracting Natural Resources: Corporate Responsibility and the Rule of Law.” Her research about the human rights and environmental impacts of mining in West Papua and the need for greater corporate accountability formed the basis for her testimony.


5.1.2009: From report 56:

Freeport McMoran, Facing Dire Financial Straits, Nevertheless Continues Its Grave Damage to West Papua

Bloomberg, in late December, described the giant copper and gold mine Freeport McMoran as “trapped” in the international “copper collapse.”  The Bloomberg report said that after enduring the status of the worst performing stock among the North American mining companies in 2008, it may not fare much better in 2009. Freeport shares have fallen 79 percent, the biggest loss in the 16-member Philadelphia Gold and Silver Index and the steepest decline since the shares started trading in 1996. The company cut its U.S. workforce by 20 percent and trimmed production plans for next year by 5 percent after delaying production at two mines in November. A separate Reuters report earlier in December noted that it had cut 75 jobs from its Jakarta headquarters but that it continues to employ approximately 12,000 workers at the main Grasberg site in West Papua.

Meanwhile, the Medical Journal of Australia, in December, published an overview of the health and human rights environment in West Papua.  It drew upon reporting in the UK “Guardian” which claimed that mining operations in West Papua are not complying with adequate health and safety standards, resulting in the release of toxic waste into rivers, destruction of natural vegetation, deforestation and flooding.  These charges have been credibly levelled against Freeport for many years, particularly with regard to its destruction of the Ajkwa river system which it uses as a tailings dump.

The Guardian report, cited by the Medical Journal, notes that as a consequence of the environmental damage, local communities are facing the loss of their traditional livelihoods and mass displacement from their lands. In addition, the influx of large numbers of migrants from other parts of Indonesia to work in the mines (such as to the largely migrant city of Timika which services the Freeport mine) is leading to fundamental changes in the demography and culture of affected regions.

Unchecked migration continues to displace the poorest people from jobs and land, invariably the indigenous Papuans. According to the Guardian report, the risk is that Papuans will become a minority group in their own homeland. Whereas indigenous Papuans comprised 96 percent of the population in 1971, they accounted for only 59 percent in 2005.



7.10.2010: Earth Alarm 124: Uit Papoea, Nieuw Guinea:   Goudmijn vernietigend voor Nieuw Guinea

Zusterorganisatie Walhi vraagt hulp in haar campagne tegen de vervuiling veroorzaakt door de Grasbergmijn op Nieuw Guinea. Het afval van deze koper- en goudmijn

vervuilt het hele rivierensysteem. Er ontstaat ernstige schade aan het milieu met grote gevolgen voor mens en dier.

Het Nederlandse ABP is aandeelhouder in het mijnbouwbedrijf. Via hen wil Walhi de druk op het bedrijf opvoeren. Mocht dit geen resultaat hebben, dan zou ABP haar aandelen van de hand moeten doen.

Rondom de afvalberg van deze mijn gebeurde veel ongelukken.

Het bedrijf stort dagelijks ruim 200 duizend ton zuur en met koper verontreinigd spoelwater van de mijn in de rivier.

Het giftige afval tast de natuur en het leefmilieu van de lokale bevolking aan. Het drinkwater is vervuild en de visstand is aangetast.

De bevolking heeft al een groot deel van haar leefgebied aan de mijn verloren. Mens en dier worden langzaam vergiftigd.

Freeport noemt de huidige werkwijze op haar website verantwoord.

Walhi is er achter gekomen dat Freeport het afvalwater onvoldoende reinigt.  Landbouw-  en natuurgebieden aan de monding van de rivier zijn omgetoverd in een gigantisch slibdepot van wel 230 vierkante kilometer, dat uitkomt in zee en lekt naar het grondwater.

Het bedrijf lapt de milieuregels aan haar laars!

Het Noorse staatspensienfonds heeft al afstand genomen van het bedrijf en alle investeringen stopgezet.

Het ABP is door het aandelenbezit mede-eigenaar van de onderneming en draagt dus ook verantwoording voor het gedrag van de onderneming in kwestie.

Greenpeace and the Berne Declaration will contribute again the Public Eye Awards in 2012 for the most irresponsible, exploitative and polluting company of the year. The vote starts today!

Vote mining giant Freeport as worst company in Public Eye’s worst company award.


Precious metals in exchange for death and exploitation: The Arizona-based mining corporation has operated the Grasberg Mine, the world’s largest gold and copper mine in West Papua, for 45 years without regard for nature and people. The mine produces 230,000 tons of tailings contaminated with heavy metals every day, resulting in a blanket of copper-laden waste covering over 200 square kilometers (90 square miles) and up to 15 meters (50 feet) deep that kills everything in its path and threatens a World Heritage site. In a large strike at the end of 2011, two strikers were shot dead by the police and union members received death threats. Switzerland is the fifth-largest trading center for Freeport’s precious metals (after the U.S., Japan, Indonesia and Spain).



Headquarters: Arizona, USA
Industry: mining
Revenue / Profit: USD 19 billion / USD 4.3 billion (2010)
Owned by: publicly-listed corporation
Employees: 29,700
CEO: Richard C. Adkerson


Freeport McMoRan has been exploiting West Papua for four decades. Thanks to 1967 deal with then-dictator Suharto, the corporation has been able to brazenly help itself to the vast gold and copper reserves of West Papua . As a result, Freeport contaminates the environment, drives the indigenous population into slums, and ruins their religious and cultural sites. They have removed a mountaintop considered sacred by local indigenous people to create the world’s largest copper and gold mine. The activities of Freeport lead to social disintegration and the creation of ghettos. This form of economic colonization inhibits the development of society, drives people to prostitution, and promotes the sharp rise in HIV infections in the West Papuan population.


The mine produces 230,000 tons of tailings contaminated with heavy metals every day, resulting in a blanket of cement-like waste covering over 200 sqaure milesand up to 15 meters (50 feet) deep that kills everything in its path. The Lorentz National Park, a World Heritage site, is increasingly threatened by Freeport’s toxic waste. The displaced population lives in slum-like conditions: In the mining town of Timika, more than half the population lives below the poverty line. Crime, prostitution and HIV infections are steadily rising. The corruption of military and police adds oil to the fire in West Papua’s already unstable political climate. The potential for conflict surges, with repeated riots, injuries and deaths. More than 160 people have been fatally shot by the military in the surroundings of Freeport’s Grasberg Mine.


Thousands of underpaid mine workers went on strike at the end of 2011, temporarily paralyzing the mine. In light of Freeport’s catastrophic practices, the company’s financial partners must distance themselves from Freeport; the Norwegian Government Pension Fund has already taken this step. The Indonesia Human Rights Committee claims Freeport cannot operate the Grasberg Mine without committing human rights violations and irreversible environmental destruction, and therefore calls for the closure of the mine.




Asian Times on the 2011 strike:

The Norwegian Government Pension Fund’s Disinvestment from Freeport:—Wal-Mart-and-Freeport—.html?id=104396

Report by the NGO