Shootings target PT Freeport in Papua PDF Afdrukken

Jakarta, (ANTARA News ) - Two executives of PT Freeport, Dave Potter and Adrianto Machribi, were injured in the bomb blast last Friday (July 17, 2009) at JW Marriott Hotel in Jakarta - very far away from Papua where shooting and torching incidents recently happened in the US gold and copper mining company`s concession area.

The bomb blast in Jakarta, and the shootings in Papua, Indonesia`s eastern-most province, might have no linkage at all, but executives and employees of the Indonesian subsidiary of the US-based mining firm have become victims in the two separate incidents.

In Mimika District, Papua Province, two PT Freeport employees have been shot dead since July 11, 2009. The dead victims were Drew Nicolas Grant (38), an Australian national, and Markus Rante Allo, a PT Freeport security guard.

Nicholas Grant, a mining technician, was shot dead by unidentified gunmen at Mile 53 on the road connecting Timika and Tembagapura, Mimika, on July 11. Grant was shot dead when traveling with other workers, in a car from Timika to Tembagapura, the location of PT Freeport`s mining operations.

On July 12, unidentified gunmen also shot dead Markus Rante Allo at Mile 51. On July 13, Brigadier I Marson Freddy Pattipeilohy, a Papua police officer, who guarded a Freeport car carrying logistics, was found dead at Mile 52 after having reportedly gone missing. He was believed to have jumped into a ravine during an attack by an unknown group.

The National Police said recently that the perpetrators of the shootings in PT Freeport`s mining area were well-trained gunmen, but no one has claimed responsibility for the shootings so far.

The presence of PT Freeport in natural resource-rich Papua Province has been a source of repeated controversy, as residents of the province have criticized its environmental impact and the very small share of revenue allotted to Papuans.

In September 2008, a separatist group in Papua claimed responsibility for a series of bomb attacks in the area and called for the closure of Freeport Mc MoRan Copper and Gold Inc.`s Grasberg mine in Tembagapura, Timika, which is believed to have the world`s third largest copper reserves. No casualties were reported in the explosions and Freeport`s operations were not disrupted last year.

In 2002, two American teachers and an Indonesian colleague who worked at the mine were shot dead in an ambush near the mining site.

Meanwhile, following the bomb blasts in Jakarta which killed nine people and injured 53 others, including the two Freeport executives, Energy and Mineral Resource Minister Purnomo Yusgiantoro said PT Freeport remained operating fully although two of its executives fell victim to the bombing. He said the operations of the US mining company were still running normally under tight guard by the police`s anti-terror unit, Densus 88.

The National Police`s public relations division spokesman Brig Gen Sulistyo Ishak said in Jakarta on July 16, 2009, that security around the Freeport area was tightened in coordination with the National Defense Forces (TNI).

The Police and TNI personnel, according to Sulistyo Ishak, had been deployed in sensitive areas around PT Freeport`s mining sites in an effort to prevent more shooting incidents from happening. In addition, he said, the security personnel would also reach out to the local people to create a sense of togetherness among them.

Inspector General Ekodanto, the chief of the Papua provincial police, said earlier that local police have intensified security for foreigners in Timika, especially in the PT Freeport Indonesia (PTFI) area.

Police tightened supervision at entry gates to PTFI residential as well as mining operation areas, he said. Papua Police have also set up eight more security posts along the Timika-Tembagapura route jointly guarded by police and military personnel, Ekodanto said.

Australian Foreign Minister Stephen Smith in his statement to the press in Brisbane, recently, said Indonesian police had asked the help of the Australian Federal Police (AFP) to investigate the shooting incidents which had claimed the live of an Australian in Papua. Smith said two AFP personnel from Jakarta had already arrived in Papua to help Indonesian police investigate the shootings.

Papua police on Monday (July 20, 2009) arrested three yet-to-be-identified men believed to belong to an armed gang responsible for three shooting incidents in the PT Freeport area earlier this month. The police have also arrested eight people in connection with the torching of a bus belonging to PTFI at mile 71 and 74 Tembagapura, recently.

PTFI has forbidden its employees to travel between Tembagapura and Timika as of July 15, 2009 for security reasons, following a number of the gun shootings injuring also several PTFI`s employees.

A PT Freeport spokesman, Mindo Pangaribuan, said company employees whose weekly day-off fell on Wednesday and were now resting in Timika had been requested for security reasons to stay in Timika and not to go to Tembagapura.

Mimika DPRD (Regional Legislative Council) Chairman Yoseph Yopi Kilangin told ANTARA in Papua recently that he condemned and regretted the shooting incidents, as what they did cannot be justified from whatever point of view, especially because the victims were innocent.

Yopi Kilangin suspected that the criminals targeted PTFI in their shooting incidents. It could be related to the policy of PTFI`s security system in the mining area which was very tight.

"The PTFI security system is very tight, it cannot be accessed by anyone from the public. And this issue has never been discussed openly by all parties," said Yopi Kilangin, an indigenous member of the Amungme tribe which has made ownership claims to the PTFI area covering 2.6 million hectares at Grassberg, Tembagapura.
He hoped that in the future PTFI and the Mimika district administration as well as local indigenous people could discuss the company`s security system so that it would not hamper local people`s activities.

The banning of traditional gold mining activities along Kali Kabur (Ajkwa) river last February-March, had angered traditional miners whose camps were burned by security guards. "We ask the people to stay calm. Leave this case to the police to find out who did the shootings," Yopi said.

In Jakarta, Defense Minister Juwono Sudarsono recently said that he suspected global business competition is behind the slew of fatal shooting incidents, as PT Freeport was a lucrative giant mining company contributing one third of Indonesia`s gross domestic product.

According to Juwono, the bloody incidents in the Freeport area in Papua could be part of an effort to have the Indonesian subsidiary of PT Freeport shut down.
But the defense minister said the incidents could as well have been triggered by the wide social gap existing between the local natives living around the Freeport concession area and the company`s employees.

Meanwhile, the Papuan Amungme tribe has filed a lawsuit against PT Freeport, and the Indonesian government for exploiting natural resources in the Tembagapura area, Titus Natkime, one of the lawyers for the Amungme tribe, said.

The lawsuit was registered as a civil case at the South Jakarta District Court on May 27, 2009 and the first hearing would open on Aug. 6, he said as reported by the Jakarta Globe on July 17, 2009.

"We are suing them for the losses suffered by our people from 1967 to 2009 amounting to about US$30 billion," he said, adding that the company was earning around $20 million a day from its mines.

It is not the first time for the Amungme tribe to file a lawsuit against Freeport because they did the same in 1996, for instance. Although they lost, it seems the traditional and indigenous tribe is determined to continue their fight against the US giant mining firm.