Twenty-two years of top-down resource exploitation in Papua

Returning from hunting, Merauke

DTE 89-90, November 2011, Special Papua edition

From Freeport/Rio Tinto to MIFEE, Papua’s long history of top-down resource exploitation is one of human rights abuses, military oppression, environmental devastation and enduring poverty for the majority of Papuans.

This article looks at this history from the late 1980s, when DTE was set up, until today, to set the context for other contributions to this special edition newsletter on Papua. The article was originally written as a contribution to a seminar at Yale on Papua, in April 2011.

By Carolyn Marr, Down to Earth

The Merauke Integrated Food and Energy Estate (MIFEE) launched in August last year is currently the most prominent ambitious natural resources development plan for Papua.

The plan involves the conversion of a vast area of land, including forests, into plantations growing food, energy and other crops. Workers are expected to be brought to Merauke to meet the demand for labour. Serious concerns have been voiced by local community organisations and regional, national and international NGOs about the potential damage this mega-project will inflict on the local indigenous population and their customary lands, resources and cultures. There is concern, too, about the wider political, human rights, socio-cultural and environmental implications for Papua as a whole.

MIFEE is following a well-established pattern of ambitious mega-projects in Indonesia which are primarily aimed at export markets. They provide incentives to private sector investors, while all but ignoring the development potential and needs of local people.

An overview of government supported projects targeting Papua that DTE has investigated over the past twenty-two years, shows such developments tend to share a particular set of characteristics. These include top-down decision-making, official announcements which package projects as being for the public benefit, the appropriation of land owned by indigenous peoples, and the import of non-Papuan labour.

The fact that MIFEE shares these characteristics indicates that there has been very little change in the mind-set adopted by decision-makers since the Suharto era. As a consequence, the same kind of negative impacts resulting from previous projects are highly likely to be seen again.

While some of the more preposterous investment plans have not gone ahead in Papua, or at least not in the way they have been announced, logging, plantation developments, and mining, oil and gas exploitation have been continuing at a varying pace, with varying degrees of impact. The overall effect has been the steady destruction of Papua’s natural resources. The common thread in this exploitation has been a steady marginalisation of indigenous Papuans, with top-down projects imposed from outside, and often accompanied by the threat of, or the use of violence to enforce plans.

The cumulative impact of these development schemes is a separate, but no less important matter. MIFEE is likely to inflict another severe blow to any hopes that Papua’s natural wealth will be managed sustainably by local people primarily for their own benefit. Each blow makes this prospect even more remote than before as the population balance shifts in favour of non-indigenous migrants and more and more of Papua’s natural resources are taken under the control of the private sector. While special autonomy measures introduced to Papua in 2001 allow more room for participation by Papuan politicians in decision-making about Papuan resources and more opportunities to benefit from revenues, people on the ground still remain largely powerless to prevent the take-over of the land and resources which have provided their livelihoods.

From Scott to BP

When DTE was established in 1988, the campaign to stop a mega-development by Scott Paper, was gaining momentum.i An area covering around 790,000 hectares in Merauke district was targeted for eucalyptus plantations to feed a chip and pulp operation based in Bade (now in Mappi district) on the Digul River. The land of around 15,000 indigenous hunter-gatherer people was included in Scott’s concession. The US-based company promised it would employ as many local people as possible, but also confirmed that non-Papuans would also be brought in with the help of Indonesia’s transmigration ministry.ii

The international campaign was concerned with protecting livelihoods and the right to Free Prior and Informed Consent, although at that time it was not framed in those terms. When pressed by NGOs, Scott avoided saying it would withdraw if local people said they didn’t want the project to go ahead. Eventually, under the threat of a consumer campaign against the company’s high profile products (tissues, toilet paper) the company did withdraw from the project, leaving its Indonesian joint venture partner (Astra) and government ministers angry, and creating a backlash against NGOs.

Since Scott Paper, Papua has been beset by a host of natural resource exploitation projects – some developed, some not, some massive in scale, others not quite so grandiose; some officially sanctioned, others illegal. They range from the 8 million-hectare Mamberamo mega-development involving hydro-electric dams, infrastructure, heavy industry and agro-industry (which didn’t go ahead) to crocodile skin smuggling operations involving corrupt military and government officials (which did). From BHP’s plans for a giant nickel mine on Gag Island (cancelled) to BP’s huge Tangguh gas extraction and LNG plant in Bintuni Bay (up and running).

One constant presence, looming large in Papua’s recent history is the Freeport-Rio Tinto copper and gold mine in Papua’s central highlands. As the chronology shows, this giant project, has brought huge profits for its investors, while inflicting a steady stream of human rights and environmental abuse on the local population. By the early years of this century it had become a measure of how not to do resource development projects in Papua.

Assault on Papua’s Forests

Above all, perhaps, the assault on Papua’s resources has affected the region’s rich, biodiverse and unique forests. And along with the forests, the livelihoods of the peoples who depend upon those resources have been degraded or have disappeared altogether.

Forests have been a major target for investors first through HPH timber concessions and clearing for transmigration sites, and more recently through HTI timber plantation concessions. Under regional, then special autonomy rules, the decentralisation of control led to a battle for control between Papua’s administration and Jakarta. New timber mafias emerged involving timber dealers and local security forces and officials, as the timber boom moved from Kalimantan to Papua. In the past decade oil palm and pulpwood and schemes have started tearing into Papua’s forests in earnest, alongside or in combination with logging.

Now, food and energy crops targeted under MIFEE represent an additional threat to forests and forest-dwellers. HTI, oil palm expansion projects and MIFEE all undermine the credibility of the commitment made by Indonesia’s president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to slice 26% off Indonesia’s projected greenhouse gas emissions by 2020.iii


Top-down resource exploitation in Papua 1989-2010

Here are some of the cases reported in the DTE newsletter over the last 22 years. The numbers in brackets refer to the relevant newsletter edition. The list is not comprehensive, but gives a fair indication of the range of resource damage directed at Papua over the past decades.

1989: Marubeni of Japan is due to start importing woodchips from mangrove area in Bintuni Bay as part of a project with PT Bintuni Utama Murni involving a chip mill operation on Amutu Besar Island. No environmental impacts assessment has been done, and the concession overlaps with an area designated as conservation forest (1). Protests against the project are mounted in Japan by the NGOs JATAN and FoE Japan (6).

Scott Paper moves ahead with plans for a plantation and pulp project in Merauke after the government approves the project in October 1988 (1). Protest letters are sent by NGOs (2) and there are protests in Jakarta (3). The company finally withdraws from the project (6).

A Finnish company Rauma-Repola Oy is exploring a joint venture with PT Furuma Utama Timber Co, to develop a pulp and paper project in Papua (6).

Indonesian business conglomerate PT Garuda Mas conducts a feasibility study for a sago processing plant in Sorong district. (1). PT Sagindo Sari Lestari has built a sago plant in Bintuni-Manokwari (4)

Sixty six out of 77 timber concession (HPH) holders are reported as having stopped logging operations (1). Australian company, McLean Ltd plans to log a 60,000 ha concession in the Mamberamo area in a joint venture with PT Sansaporinda called Mamberamo Forest Products (5).

Gucci and Christian Dior are reported to be interested in crocodile skin investments. Around 2,500 skins have been exported to France since 1987 by PT Skyline Jayapura (2). Crocodile hunting and skin smuggling is reported in the Mamberamo River area, with violence and corruption associated with the trade (3).

State-owned PT Aneka Tambang plans to open a nickel mine on Gag Island with financial backing from Queensland Nickel Joint Venture of Australia (3).

Massive expansion is underway at the Freeport mine with gold production to triple from 5-15 tonnes in the next 3 years and copper concentrate from 25,000 to 40,000 tonnes per day. The company celebrates its 21st birthday with record profits. A medical officer has reported 143 serious industrial accidents and 4 deaths in the past 3 years (5).

A South Korean-Indonesian logging joint venture involving You Liem Sari (subsidiary of You One Construction) and PT Kebun Sari has devastated the livelihoods of 90 families in Muris, near Jayapura (6).

Six foreign gold mining companies, one British and five Australian, are prospecting for gold in Papua (6).

1990: An investigation by Japanese news agency Kyodo finds evidence of illegal logging in Bintuni Bay by Marubeni-backed Bintuni Utama Murni Wood Industries (7). In Bintuni Bay, Iraturu landowners demand royalties from the company, while campaigns against Marubeni’s involvement in the mangrove forest destruction continue in Japan (10). The company is ordered to suspend operations and is fined by the Forestry Minister for illegal logging(11).

US oil company Conoco is to drill what is described as the biggest well in Papua in the Bird’s Head region under a production sharing agreement with state oil company, Pertamina (8).

The first shipment of sago flour produced from Sagindo Sari Lestari’s Bintuni Bay operation leaves for Japan. The company announces plans to important 200 transmigrant families to address labour shortages (9).

Governor Suebu considers a plan for an Australian consortium to build a toxic waste disposal plant at Nappan, Cenderawasih Bay to process high level waste from Australia, Indonesia and Singapore (9). A space port on Biak is also planned with a US-based company (9).

Freeport negotiates an extended contract area 20 times as large as its original area (10).

Indonesian NGO SKEPHI reports that 77 concessions holders have been granted 12.9 million hectares and say that 70% of Papua’s 41.8 million ha of forests have been allocated for exploitation of some kind (logging, dam construction, transmigration sites, plantations, mining and oil)(10).

PT Yapen Utama Timber is poised to destroy Yapen Island’s pristine forests and the livelihoods of indigenous islanders (10).

The government gives the green light to 19 new pulp mills, four of them in Papua (11).

Governor Suebu says a satellite survey carried out by US experts shows that Papua has the world’s biggest gold deposits (11).

1991: State-owned forestry company Inhutani II is announced as Scott Paper’s replacement in Merauke (12). Canadian government money is used to fund a feasibility study for an Asia Development Bank-funded timber estate/pulp project in Sorong. The proposed operating company is PT Kayu Lapis one of Indonesia’s large forestry groups, which is already logging in Bintuni Bay through its subsidiary PT Henrison Iriana. This company was reported to have gained two more forestry concessions, one each in Wasior and Babo subdistricts (12).

The PT Sagindo Sari Lestari sago project plans to import 8,000 more transmigrants to work at its sago project (12).

Ten NGOs from the US, UK, Japan and the Netherlands raise concerns about the impacts of the Freeport mine and the expansion project underway on indigenous Papuans and the environment (12). Freeport responds by denying any wrongdoing, but arranges meetings with US NGO Environmental Defense Fund and with WALHI and WWF representatives in Jakarta and advertises for environmental staff (13). The company signs an agreement with the Indonesian government for a thirty-year contract extension covering 2.5 million hectares and CEO James Moffett claims he is “thrusting a spear of economic development into the heartland of Irian Jaya”. The mine has the world’s largest published reserves of gold (14).The Bakrie Group buys a 10% stake in Freeport Indonesia (15). A series of local newspaper reports retells the story of the agreement between indigenous leaders and the company in 1974 and the need for this to be renegotiated (15).

Government plans for an international tourist resort on Biak Island are announced, with six hotels to be built on a 325 hectare site (13).

Four more companies (including three named international companies) have submitted proposals to explore copper in Papua (13).

The Papuan governor’s office states that Bintuni Utama Murni Wood Industries has cleared 300 hectares of mangroves illegally. The company, backed by Japan’s Marubeni, has not yet paid the fine imposed last year (13).

German financing for a proposed hydro-dam in Sentani, is reported (13).

1992: Moi indigenous people in Sorong, reject the presence of logging company PT Intimpura on their ancestral lands, staging protests, meeting with company and local government representatives and calling for fines. The company continues logging regardless and has not fulfilled promises made to the community. Local people knew nothing about the logging plans until the logging started (16).

Three companies – PT Yapen Utama, Wapoga Timber and Barito Pacific Timber are logging Yapen Island, despite protests by local people (19).

French-Australian joint venture PT Nabire is licenced to explore for gold over 825,000 ha in Papua. The companies involved are BRGM of France and Consolidated Rutile of Australia, as well as Indonesia’s PT Darma Bakti Cirendeu. Another foreign company, Montague Gold, has three joint venture exploration projects in Papua (16).

A consortium of German banks will provide 70% of funds to build a smelter at Gresik, East Java, to smelt copper from the Freeport mine (16). The downstream impacts of Freeport’s operations which dump tens of thousands of tonnes of waste rock every day into local river are devastating lowland areas, flooding forests and affecting local indigenous peoples’ livelihoods (18).

PT Astra, Scott Paper’s erstwhile partner in the Merauke pulp project, withdraws from the venture due to financial problems (18).

State-owned coal mining company PT Tambang Batubara Bukit Asam is to cooperate with 20 regional companies in new coal ventures, including in Papua (17).

1993: Sorong, Moi villagers mount a third attack on the base camp of timber company PT Intimpura (a military-owned company) after their protests continue to be ignored (20/21). Threats and intimidation continue against local people who protest against the continued logging (22). Another similar conflict is developing in Manokwari district between the Sou people, Bintuni subdistrict, and logging company PT Yotefa Sarana Timber (20/21).

The Mamberano River valley development plans are announced by Science and Technology Minister BJ Habibie (20/21).

US company Eastern Mining is entering a joint venture with two Indonesian companies to explore for gold and copper in Papua (21/21).

Freeport will expand ore processing to 115,000 tonnes per day by 1996 (22).

1994: The forestry ministry stresses the importance of relocating timber processing from Sumatra and Kalimantan to Papua (24).

Canada’s Inco continues limited copper exploration in Papua. When NGOs raise concerns, the company says it is happy with Indonesia’s human rights record (24). Meanwhile joint ventures involving Canada’s Ingold and the US’s Eastern Mining are awarded exploration gold and copper exploration and production contracts (24).

1995: RTZ (now Rio Tinto) enters an agreement with Freeport to fund expansion at the mine, in exchange for shares in Freeport and a share of the profit from the expansion. The Australian Council for Overseas Aid reports that 37 people have died during recent months at the hands of the Indonesian military and Freeport security guards, with Freeport accused of complicity in the torture and intimidation of 13 people, the shooting of 3 villagers and the disappearance of 5 villagers (25). There are protests against RTZ’s involvement in Freeport at the company’s London AGM (25). WALHI takes the Department of Mining and Energy to court, alleging the ministry failed to consult properly before approving Freeport’s environmental impact assessment (26). A statement by Amungme leaders calls for a stop to the killing and torture, forcible relocation and environmental destruction caused by Freeport’s mining operations. A report by a Catholic Bishop reveals more evidence of killings, torture and disappearances in the mining concession (27). Meanwhile ore processing will increase to between 175,000-200,000 tonnes per day and President Suharto awards Freeport an investment prize (27). The US government’s Overseas Private Investment Corporation cancels USD 100 million of political risk insurance with Freeport. OPIC’s letter to the company reveals massive environmental damage. The World Bank’s Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA) is urged with withdraw similar insurance provided in 1990 (28). There are protests against Freeport by US students. Suharto opens the mining town of Kuala Kencana near the mine, and WALHI’s case against Freeport is thrown out (28).Forestry Minister Djamaluddin wants timber companies to step up logging in Papua (29/30).

1996: Official figures show that wood production has increased three-fold in 1992-3 compared with a decade previously at 1.3 million m3 from 68 concessions, but this is not enough and ministry is pushing for more production. Jakarta is offering licences for new sawmills and pulp mills for Papua. Lower royalty rates apply as an incentive (29/30).

Sixteen new pulp projects are announce, including a 300,000 tonnes per year mill to be operated by the Jayanti Group due to start in 2003 (29/30).

There is mass-rioting and attacks on Freeport property in Tembagapura and Timika and the new town of Kuala Kencana, after a Dani man, knocked down by a vehicle driven by a Freeport employee, was then presumed dead and tossed into a ravine. Freeport CEO flies in and meets Amungme leaders who present him with demands. Indigenous leader Tom Beanal files a lawsuit against the company in the US for USD6 billion in damages (29/30). Freeport imposes a settlement of 1% gross profits for community development programmes in return for the company to continue operations in its 2.6 million ha concession. Freeport cancels both MIGA and OPIC (reinstated) political risk insurance (31).

At least 82 families (most of the Javanese families on the site) leave the PT Sago Sari Lestari project as wages are too low to live on (29/30).

Texmaco is announced as Astra’s replacement for the Scott Paper project in Merauke. It will produce rayon, not pulp (32). Another company, Tanah Merah Hutan Lestari, is developing a 350,000 ha timber plantation in the region (32).

1997: More violence, sparked by a rape incident involving Papuan Freeport employees, leaves 6 dead and 52 injured (33). Yet more violence at Freeport-Rio Tinto mine results in at least four Papuans dead (35). Downstream, people have been displaced by mud and tailings dumped by Freeport which have submerged Koperapoka Lana and have destroyed 300,000 ha of forest. Meanwhile, more gold deposits are identified (32). The government finds river water unfit for consumption (32). Lawsuits by Amungme leaders Tom Beanal, and Yosepha Alomang are dismissed in the US (32). Bakrie’s stake in Freeport is taken over by Nusamba, controlled by Suharto family members and chief crony and timber tycoon Bob Hasan (33). More troops will be stationed in Timika (32) and Freeport builds barracks for the local military (35).

BHP announces nickel mining project on Gag Island, in a joint venture with state-owned mining company, PT Aneka Tambang (35).

Suharto instructs his government to develop a million hectares of plantations in Papua (35)

Power generation, heavy industry and food production plans are publicised for the Mamberamo watershed. There are plans to attract German investors (32). Along with the Central Kalimantan peatland mega-project, Mamberamo is presented as a means of restoring rice self-sufficiency (34). A Mamberamo seminar is held in Jakarta to attract investors (35).

Gas discoveries in Bintuni Bay are announced by US company Atlantic Richfield (ARCO – the gas field is later to become the Tangguh project, led by BP) (32).

1998: The government announces that no more logging permits will be issued in Indonesia in 1998, apart from in Papua and East Timor (36).

A contract is approved for nickel mining on Gag Island by a BHP and Aneka Tambang joint venture (37).

The national planning agency lists new projects to exploit Papua’s resources in seven zones. Plans include large scale transmigration combined with logging, plywood, palm oil, sugar-cane and textile fibre in Merauke and gas exploitation in Bintuni Bay (37).

Former Governor Suebu (who sits on the body that oversees the development of ‘Eastern Indonesia’) announces that Germany, Japan and Australia have agreed to invest in the Mamberamo mega-project (37). Plans for the mega-project are not yet affected by the financial crash and reports say land acquisition is going ahead (37).

Around 2,100 people will be moved from the Freeport mining town of Timika to transmigration sites (37). Freeport is implicated in the murder of 11 people and other abuses carried out by Indonesian troops near its mine. The abuses are documented in a report by church leaders in Mimika (38). A 20ft wall of water is released from Lake Wanagon, where Freeport dumps mine waste, flooding Waa village and a series of floods and landslides are reported, in which two workers are killed (39). The company’s operations are investigated by a parliamentary commission which finds it has not provided sufficient benefit to local people. There are strikes at the mine over pay (39). Meanwhile, the fall of Suharto sparks calls for self-determination and independence by Papuans across the region (38).

Details of plans by ARCO and partners to exploit gas at the Tangguh project are made public (39).

1999: The vast land holdings controlled by the Suharto family start to emerge, including thousands of hectares in Papua, with at least 5 companies involved in plantations, fisheries, and industrial sectors (40). While talk of ‘autonomy’ and a ‘National Dialogue’ on Papua continue, the forestry department calls on the Merauke district authorities to ensure that land is cleared and compensation settled so that Texmaco’s oil palm, sugar and other plantations can go ahead (40).

The provincial forestry office says it has submitted applications for 20 new oil palm projects to Jakarta for medium and large-scale plantations and processing facilities in Jayapura, Merauke, Nabire, Fakfak and Manokwari districts (40). An oil palm development in Sorong by Korindo Group (through subsidiary Bangun Karya Irian) is awaiting approval. Two other subsidiaries have already developed a 3,000 ha plantation in Merauke (40).

A new development is announced for Arso, with developers PT PNII – a state-owned plantation company - developing 102,000 ha and building a CPO mill (42). A million hectares is set aside in the ‘Biak Integrated Economic Development Zone’ for rice, sago and oil palm, to be developed by PT Dato, a consortium of Malaysian and German companies (42). PT Varita Majutama (a subsidiary of the Jayanti Group, which operates ply and sago projects as well as a fish cannery on Biak) is expanding its existing plantations in Babo, Bintuni Bay using transmigrant labour and the company plans a processing mill and port (42). Sinar Mas says it will build a CPO mill with port facilities in Jayapura district and has already planted 13,000 of oil palm plantations there.(42). More firms (PT Tujuh Wali-Wali and PT Prabu Alaska) are awaiting approval of projects in Jayapura and Fakfak districts (42).

The Amungme Tribal Consultative Council (LEMASA) says it will shut down the Freeport-Rio Tinto mine unless the company changes it ways (40). A corruption scandal involving economics minister Ginandjar Kartasasmita, Aburizal Bakrie and Freeport, prompts calls to renegotiate the company’s 1991 contract. Meanwhile President Habibie instructs his ministers to help the mine increase its production to 300,000 tonnes per day (40) and the expansion is approved after Freeport agrees to increase royalty payments on copper and gold extracted (41).

Papuan representatives attending the inaugural meeting of the Alliance of Indigenous Peoples of the Archipelago (AMAN) denounce the carve-up and handing over to companies of their lands and resources by the Jakarta government. They call for independence from Indonesia (DTE Special Issue Oct 1999). An international campaign is launched to persuade governments to acknowledge that the 1969 Act of Free Choice was a sham (43).

Continental Energy signs a production-sharing contract with Pertamina for Continental subsidiary Apex Ltd to explore a 9,500 sq km block off the northeast coast of Papua (43).

A West Papua representative appeals at the UN Working Group on Indigenous Peoples for parties involved in the Mamberamo project to consult the 7,300 people affected, stating that until now “almost all policies and decision for the so-called ‘development’ in West Papua have been made without our knowledge” (43).

2000: Against a background of open calls for independence or at the very least a dialogue on Papua’s political status, Papuans present a fresh demand for the closure of the Freeport-Rio Tinto mine and the withdrawal of troops from Timika (44). The Wanagon containment dam collapses twice causing the deaths of four contract workers and severe flooding downstream. A temporary reduction in ore processing is imposed (47). WALHI files a lawsuit against Freeport for violation of the environment management law (47). A survey ship operated by the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI) reports large amounts of sedimentation from the Freeport mine in the Arafura Sea (47). Freeport agrees a framework MoU with community organisations LEMASA and LEMASKO (47).

Information from the government’s environmental protection agency (Bapedal) in Jayapura shows 57 timber companies logging 11 million hectares. Bapedal has named 6 companies with concessions over 200,000 hectares which control a total of 6.8 million ha. Chair of the Indonesian Loggers’ Association says that many companies have halted work due to conflict with communities (45).

The recently emerged, pro-independence Papuan Presidium Council passes a resolution on foreign investment. This is welcomed as long as investors respect the rights of indigenous Papuans and the environment (47).

A ‘road for logs’ deal involving four South Korean companies is signed in Jakarta, whereby the companies will build a 11,280 km road linking Jayapura with Nabire and Sorong in exchange for the right to log five km either side of the road (47).

Meanwhile local people from Yapen Waropen are demanding compensation for felling forest from another Korean company, Kodeco (47).

2001: Special autonomy measures for Papua are finally passed in October, two years after regional autonomy laws are brought in to provide a greater share of natural resource revenues to the regions (51). The May 1st deadline for passing the bills is delayed (49). Protesters reject autonomy and call for independence as the security forces clamp down on political demonstrations, arrest pro-indepenence Papuan leaders. Dozens of people are reported killed after being shot and/or beaten by the security forces (49).

The UK/US merger BP/Amoco (formerly ARCO) plans to start production from the giant Tangguh gas fields in Bintuni Bay in 2005. Environment minister Sony Keraf says the project will be a test case for the new law requiring community participation in environmental impact assessments. Regional Bapedal chief Ali Kastella has said the project threatens thousands of hectares of mangroves (48). Sebiar (Sebayar) indigenous people threaten to suspend BP’s operations it Tangguh if it fails to pay promised compensation for sago trees destroyed during surveys carried out in 1996-1997 (49).

The killing of logging workers and police sparks a brutal operation by special forces police (Brimob) in Wasior. The company involved is PT Dharma Mukti Persada, sparking debates about the potential for human rights abuse around the BP Tangguh site nearby (50).

Indonesia auctions 21 oil exploration blocks in February, including 6 in the Arafura Sea, off Papua (48).

Freeport-Rio Tinto is identified by Indonesia environmental protection agency as one of the two worst polluters in eastern Indonesia, but the government gives the company clearance to resume higher levels of production at 230,000 tonnes per day (49). WALHI wins its case against Freeport and the company is found guilty of violating environment law (No 23, 1997). The military confirms it is ready to safeguard Freeport’s facilities from security threats amid calls for demilitarisation in Papua. Freeport finds more copper and gold in its concession (51).

The Mamberamo mega-project will go ahead, according to provincial officials, but the World Bank denies it is considering funding the hydrodams and indicates it is a bad idea (49). A delegation of indigenous leaders from Mamberamo travels to Jakarta to call for the project to be stopped, but the government appears to be determined to go ahead and to “keep persuading the local people to accept the plan” (50).

New rules to stop mining in protected forests breaks are disputed by mining companies, including BHP, which plans to develop a nickel mine on Gag Island off Papua.

2002: BP conducts a human rights impact assessment at Tangguh amid concerns about Freeport-style security arrangements in Bintuni Bay and the potential for human rights abuses against local people. A day-long occupation by local people of BP’s base-camp in Manokwari forces the suspension of activities at Tangguh. NGOs in Manokwari call for a moratorium. BP sets up a commission (TIAP) to provide additional scrutiny of the project and Papua’s military commander visits the project site, stating the military has an obligation to protect such sites (53/54). A visitor to the site reports deep worries about their future among local people (55).

Government data shows that 3.3 million hectares of Papua’s 11.5 million ha of designated protected forests overlap with mining concessions. The same applies to 1.5 million ha of Papua’s 7.5 million hectares of conservation forests. Companies involved include BHP and Freeport. Governor Solossa has lobbied for the lifting of the ban on the BHP project (53/54). BHP is among the first six companies who will get approval to resume operations, after the government appears to be buckling under intense pressure to allow mining in protected forests (55).

Forestry Minister Prakosa asks Papua governor Solossa to revoke a decision to allow the export of valuable merbau logs which conflicts with a central government ban (53/54).Human rights abuses linked to the illegal logging businesses run by members of the military are reported by Papuan human rights group ELSHAM (55). The International Crisis Group releases a report exploring the links between the military, illegal resource exploitation and the payment of protection money by companies operating in Papua. Military officers or military-run ‘foundations’ are reported to be shareholders in the logging companies PT Hanurata and Jayanti. Cases of intimidation involving Jayanti in Bintnui are reported, plus a fatal shooting by Kopassus special forces guards at PT Wapoga Mutiara Timber’s operation 130 km west of Jayapura. ICG recommends a commercial logging moratorium for Papua and the phasing out of military involvement in natural resources extraction. (55).

Papua is experiencing a logging boom, focussed in the Bird’s Head region with foreign buyers seeking to do merbau log deals. Numerous recent cases of illegal logging and smuggling are reported. A timber mafia linked to sharply increased forest destruction has emerged in Sorong with collusion between local officials, military/police and timber companies (55). There are 53 large-scale logging concessions in Papua, covering 11-13 million hectares, plus hundreds of small-scale concessions issued since 1998. Compared to other areas logging has been slow, with cover reduced by around 1.8 million ha between 1985 and 1997. Log production between 1995-2000 was 1.7 million cubic metres per year (37% of the government target). The development of timber estates is non-existent and plantation development has been slow compared with other regions. (55).

Human rights workers come under pressure as they investigate the killings of three people (one Indonesian and two Americans) near the Freeport-Rio Tinto mine and point to the involvement of the military. Company payments of tens of millions of dollars to the security forces are exposed. Military-provoked incidents near the mine are believed to be an attempt to justify continued military presence and payments. Meanwhile the Papuan government has plans to acquire a 15% share of the mine, while also asking for modest measures to tackle pollution from the mine (55).

Medco, Indonesia’s biggest listed energy company, buys a 90% share in an oil and gas exploration block in Yapen (56).

2003: Shareholder action has forced Freeport to reveal how much protection money it has paid and continues to pay police and military in Papua, sparking debate about rent-seeking by the security forces and human rights violations linked to Freeport’s operations. (57) A landslide at the giant Grasberg pit leaves eight dead, prompting more protests against the mine in Indonesia and London (59). Yosepha Alomang, an indigenous Amungme human rights defender publishes a personal account of her life living near the Freeport mine and the suffering she endured at the hands of the military when she protested against the mine’s impacts (63).

More doubts emerge about the Tangguh gas project as summaries of the project’s human rights impact assessment and the Tangguh Independent Advisory Panel’s report are published. New concerns include the proposed division of Papua into three provinces and the associated increase in military presence this implies (57).

A delegation of provincial councillors and forestry officials refuse to revoke logging licences in a meeting with forestry department officials in Jakarta. A total of 11.8 million hectares was handed out to 44 firms last year in Papua’s logging boom (57).

Concerns are raised about the potential impact of BHP’s plans to mine nickel on Gag island on the neighbouring Raja Ampat marine ecosystem. Australian diplomats lobby for mining to go ahead in protected forests at the request of companies involved, including BHP (58).

2004: The worsening political situation in Papua and re-emergence of the military as a dominant force in Indonesian politics raises concerns about human rights protection at Tangguh (60).

WALHI reports that illegal log exports from Papua have reached 600,000 cubic metres a month (61).

2005: An EIA-Telapak report on illegal logging in Papua reveals Papua as the main illegal logging centre in Indonesia, with 300,000 cubic metres of logs being smuggled to China each month. There is a web of corruption and intimidation involving powerful syndicates of brokers and fixers in Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and China. Indigenous Papuans receive a pittance to hand over valuable forest resources. A leading US hardwood flooring distributor, Goodfellow Inc, is selling products made from illegal felled Papuan timber. Ministers order a crack-down on illegal logging in Papua, but this is made complicated by conflicting Papuan and national laws about who has the right to issue forest concessions (65)

A statement by Soway, Wayuri and Simuna indigenous communities calls for a halt to project activities at Tangguh in Bintuni Bay until continuing problems over land have been addressed. Three hundred NGOs and individuals sign a letter urging BP’s chief executive Lord Browne not go ahead with the project until concerns over human rights and the wider political context have been addressed. A former BP vice-president joins the project’s critics and TIAP is accused of playing down human rights concerns (65).

There are plans to build a military base inside Wasur national park in Merauke (65)

Indonesia’s constitutional court rules in favour of mining companies wanting to resume operations in protected forests – including BHP on Gag island, amid reports of threats and bribery (66).

Global Witness calls for Freeport’s operations to be investigated under US and Indonesian laws in the light of payments to military and police officers including the former military commander of Papua who also held a senior military post in East Timor when atrocities were committed by troops and army-backed militias there (66)

2006: More details of Freeport payments to police and military personnel are uncovered in a New York Times investigation (68). Two new reports detail Freeport’s environmental impacts (WALHI) and social impacts (Yahamak/ELSHAM), and cover the problems surrounding gold panning by local people in Freeport’s tailings stream. Protestors in Jakarta call for the mine to be shut down (69). The Norwegian government pension fund disinvests in Freeport for ethical reasons (71).

The Asian Development Bank approves a loan for Tangguh, despite objections from NGOs. Papuan Baptist churches leader Reverend Socratez Sofyan Yoman writes to BP, objecting to the company’s relationship with a government which commits atrocities outside the Tangguh ‘project area’ (68).

Officially, Papua is the second wealthiest province in Indonesia, but World Bank figures show that despite an average growth rate of 10% in the past decade and increased revenue flows since special autonomy was introduced, 40% of Papuans still live below the poverty line – more than double the national average (68).

Forestry minister Kaban Malam announces that China Light plans to invest USD1 billion in a logging and timber processing plan linked to provide merbau hardwood for sports facilities at the 2008 Olympic Ganes in Beijing (69).

Papua’s forests are disappearing at a much faster rate than previously thought, according to analysis by Forest Watch Indonesia. Only 45% of the forests are intact (17.9 million ha). The main cause is large-scale commercial logging. Greenpeace draws attention to 6 large wood-processing plants in Papua, including Henrison Iriana (a subsidiary of Kayu Lapis Indonesia). A draft Papuan forestry regulation (Perdasus) gives communities the rights to manage small-scale logging businesses, but Jakarta’s commitment to supporting this decentralisation move is questionable (69).

BHP says it will not use submarine tailings disposal at its proposed nickel mine on Gag Island and it won’t proceed with the mine if the area is designated a World Heritage Site (76-77).

2007: Questions about CO2 emissions from Tangguh are raised along with continuing concerns and security and human rights (73).

Workers strike at the Freeport-Rio Tinto mine over discriminatory employment practices and JATAM and WALHI launch a new book on Freeport. A petition is launched calling for the government to tackle the Freeport problems (73). Two women are shot dead and another is injured at a protest at the mine (76-77).

Major plans for oil palm plantations - between 1 and 3 million hectares are being promoted in Papua. Indonesia’s Investment Coordinating Board (BKPM) says there are over 2 million ha available for palm oil development. Existing developments cover around 90,000ha in Papua province and 30,000 in West Papua province (75). Governor Suebu says he has agreed to release a million hectares of land for oil palm investment at the request of Sinar Mas, Medco and Felda (a Malaysian parastatal company) with a focus on biodiesel markets (75). Sinar Mas has plans for oil palm in Mappi, Boven Digul and Merauke districts and has signed MoUs for 200,000 ha in each district (75). Sinar Mas is reported to have ambitious plans for 2.8 million hectares in the three districts, plus three others in the north of Papua (Sarmi, Keerom and Jayapura). Other investors in the oil palm rush are Malaysia’s Genting Bhd (palm oil for biofuel), Indonesia’s Muting Mekar Hijau (palm oil and sugar); Indonesia’s Rajawali Corp (Keerom district), Indomal (Merauke district). Trans Pacific, a Indonesian-Singaporean-Chinese joint venture is reported to be interested in developing agrofuel from sago (75).

Long-running problems relating to land rights, access to resources and migrant workers, are reported by the International Crisis Group with oil palm plantation projects by Korean company Korindo in Boven Digul district. ICG estimates that Sinar Mas’ plans for southern Papua alone would require and influx of 42,000 non-Papuans – more than the district’s entire current population (75). There are reports of torture and killing of two Papuans near the Korindo plantation and the death of one Korindo worker (75).

Governor Suebu says he wants to protect more than half the land targeted for development and use the protected forest to generate carbon credits (75).

2008: Governor Suebu signs an MoU with Emerald Planet and New Forests Asset Management to assess forest carbon potential in Mimika, Mamberamo and Merauke. Suebu says that of Papua’s 31.5 million hectares of forest zone, 50% is for conservation, 20% is for production and 30% is for conversion including plantations and agriculture (76-77). A pilot REDD project has been developed in the Cyclops Mountains near Jayapura with Fauna and Flora International, but is awaiting approval from Jakarta (79).

BP and Rio Tinto announce huge global profits. Meanwhile in Papua, nineteen gold panners are killed in a tailings landslide near the Freeport-Rio Tinto mine. In Bintuni Bay, TIAP reports an increase of 100 soldiers to Bintuni and 30 to Babo, near the Tangguh project. A Papuan publication raises concerns about the restriction on fishing livelihoods and relocation in Bintuni Bay due to the Tangguh project (76-77).

As world food prices rocket, a rice mega-project with the acronym MIRE (MIFEE’s precursor) is planned for Merauke involving Saudi investors and with 1.6 million hectares of land allocated. Five local companies are already involved (PT Sumber Alam, PT Wolo Agro Lestari, PT Comexindo, PT Medco and PT Bangun Cipta Sarana. There are questions over whether the production will be primarily for export or whether domestic needs will be prioritised. (78).

Medco has begun constructing a chip mill in Merauke and plans to build a pulp and paper mill in 2012. Two other companies, Modern Group and International Paper are reported to be interested in pulp projects in Merauke (78).

A coalition of 20 Papuan civil society groups launch a campaign in Jakarta to save Papua’s people and forests, under threat from logging, palm oil and other agrofuel crop plantations, and road projects. They want the government to stop issuing forestry licences until provincial regulations on indigenous rights to manage natural resources have been passed (78). Agriculture department data shows there are now 14 oil palm plantation companies in Papua of which 6 have started developing their concessions; two cacao plantations and two sago plantations (78).

Reports by the Evangelical church in Papua about PT Rajawali Group’s oil palm development in Keerom district raise concerns about the methods employed by companies to gain access to community land and the social impacts. The Papuan NGO network Foker has released a film about oil palm in Keerom (78).

BHP Billiton pulls out of the Gag island nickel project. Local NGOs call for a halt to other smaller-scale nickel mining projects in the area, a few of which are already in production (79).

2009: BP’s climate change commitments for the Tangguh project are scrutinised as gas operations get underway. Around 3 million tonnes of carbon dioxide will be released per year according to the environmental impact analysis documents (80-81).

Freeport-Rio Tinto admits it is still making payments to the Indonesian military (80-81). More fatal shootings near the mine prompt local civil society organisations to call for a peaceful dialogue to address conflict in Papua. Amungme landowners file a fresh lawsuit against Freeport claiming USD30 billion in damages in compensation for environmental and human rights violations (82).

At least 3 Australian mining exploration companies are looking for major copper and gold deposits in Papua, including Hillgrove Resources in Sorong and Manokwari district, Arc Exploration Ltd (formerly Austindo Resources Corporation) in Bintuni Bay, via a company called PT Alam Papua Nusantara, and Nickelore Ltd, in an area bordering Freeport’s concession (82).

Papua’s provincial government announces plans for a hydro-dam in Komauto to provide electricity, power a cement works in Timika and support tourism development in Paniai (83).

2010: Government targets for industrial timber and 'people’s timber plantations' in Papua for 2010-2014 are given as 250,000 hectares from a national total of 2.7 million hectares. The new forests are part of the government’s greenhouse gas emissions reductions strategy (84).

Fatal flash floods in Wasior district are blamed on illegal logging (87).

A Chinese company, Far East, wants to invest in coal mining in 5 areas in Manokwari district (87).

The transmigration context

Indonesia’s hugely damaging transmigration programme to shift millions of villagers from Java, Bali and Madura to the less densely-populated ‘outer islands’ was in full swing when DTE was established in 1988. Papua, with its disputed political status, armed resistance movement, frequent and brutal military operations against local people to root out political dissent and its long, porous border with Papua New Guinea, was a major target for transmigration. Here, as in other border regions, the programme was aimed at strengthening territorial control and defence as well as accessing and developing the region’s rich natural wealth. There was a strong element of ‘teaching the Papuans how to farm’ on top of a deliberate attempt to boost population density in order to ‘speed up development’.

Transmigration remains a particularly sensitive issue in Papua. Migrants have settled in Papua in increasing numbers, via official, government-sponsored transmigration as well as under their own steam. The overall effect has been a population shift in favour of people who are not indigenous Papuans. Recent research has indicated that indigenous Papuans were outnumbered by non-indigenous Papuans by 2010 and that the non-indigenous population is likely to grow faster than the indigenous.iv

The MIFEE project will make this situation more pronounced. The estimated number of workers needed for the planned food and energy plantations range from the tens of thousands into the millions. Whatever the final number, it will put further pressure on resources and push indigenous Papuans further into a minority position.

In the broader political context, these population concerns are linked to the question of Papua’s political status and how Papuan identity is defined. If, finally, there is a genuine act of self-determination in Papua, what would be the result now that more than half the inhabitants are originally non-indigenous Papuans? Or, if there was an attempt to limit eligibility so that recent settlers were not eligible to vote, how would that eligibility be decided? If the criteria for voting was linked to the Papuan identity, how would that identity be determined? Who would have the authority to decide these questions?


Notes on a decade of transmigration from the DTE archive:

1999: After the launch of George Monbiot’s book, Poisoned Arrows, the Indonesian embassy defends the transmigration policy in Papua, saying Indonesia isn’t forcing Papuans to live a modern way of life, but is attempting to prevent a nomadic way of life (3). The provincial transmigration head argues that transmigration should be encouraged, as Papua has a population density of only 3.4 people per km2. The five-year plan target of 23,000 families has not been met, with only 4,555 sent. A total of 23,000 families have been sent to Papua so far, with Merauke receiving the most (4).

1990: The new five-year plan target for Papua is 29,905 families. Plans for moving 4,000 families are announced for 1990/91 for Eastern Indonesia. But empty sites are reported in some areas of Papua with houses in need of repair and land in need of re-clearing before families can move in (8).

1992: In Merauke, 163 families have left transmigration sites due to lack of preparation and drought conditions. The official figures for transmigration into Merauke since 1964 are 12,064 families plus 1,712 local families settled on transmigration sites. Despite the problems, the transmigration department estimates that Merauke has the potential to accommodate 100,000 families in a “transmigration triangle” of 1.2 million hectares. There are plans for constructing a huge dam on the Digul River to provide irrigation, to be completed in 25 years (19).

1994: Minister of Information Harmoko says he hopes that through transmigration the population of Papua can be increased rapidly in order to exploit its vast economic potential. Suharto plans to divide Papua into three provinces to speed the development of supporting infrastructure. New resettlement areas along the border with PNG are also planned (23).

1996: Papua is the biggest transmigrant receiving area for 1996/7. A new transmigration policy for Papua is announced: indigenous Papuans will no longer be settled alongside settlers from outside Papua on purpose-built transmigration sites, but will have their own villages “restructured” instead. The aim is to speed up their development. New “special” sites have been planned in Timika and Lereh. New transmigration sites in Sorong are announced (28). A transmigration site is developed inside Wasur National Park, Merauke (35).

1997: A new transmigration bill excludes defence and security aspects from transmigration. Transmigration minister Siswono insists Papua has “too few people” and argues that more settlers are needed to speed up development (32). Since 1964, 246,000 people have been moved to Papua and another 110,000 are due to be sent by 1999. WALHI warns that Papuans will be a minority in their own land and calls for transmigration to be suspended (32).

1998: There are signs that the financial crisis may force the government to scale back the transmigration programme (37), but a government document indicates that the programme will continue. Figures for transmigration from 1969/70 to 1993/4 for Papua and Maluku are 81,401 families. The current five-year plan (94/95-98/99) includes 67,210 families for the same region (39).

2000: The provincial administration urges the Jakarta government to stop sending transmigrants to Papua and start empowering Papuans instead (45). Official figures put the population at about 2 million with around half the population indigenous Papuans (45).

Note: numbers in brackets refer to DTE newsletter editions.


MIFEE: same book, different cover?

Based on previous experience with mega-projects, MIFEE will bring far more harm than it will benefits. The disastrous Central Kalimantan peatland rice mega-project of the 1990s was a similarly ambitious project with similar food security goals that ended in ecological catastrophe – including emitting millions of tonnes of CO2 – and had disastrous impacts for indigenous Dayak communities.v

The MIFEE project involves ten state-owned companies and up to 37 private sector companies, including overseas companies. At least two companies are reported to be finalising their environmental impacts assessments. The estimated area involved ranges from just over half a million hectares to 2.5 million hectares and more, depending on the source. While the project is being promoted as a means of boosting Indonesia’s food security, the involvement of overseas investors indicates that export markets will be prioritised. The mega-project has prompted a great deal of concern among local communities, church groups and civil society organisations. There has also been strong opposition from local groups, supported by Indonesia’s indigenous alliance

What has changed since the days of Scott Paper? Local people will be marginalised, transmigrant labour will be drafted in, forests and forest resources are being cleared; large corporations and investors stand to profit. The military may also benefit from protection money in the same way it has done so from the Freeport-Rio Tinto mine, oil palm and logging. MIFEE could be used by the military as a justification for the need for troops to guard the projects – a situation which increases the potential for human rights abuses against local people. All the ingredients for continuing the decades-old cycle of resource exploitation and marginalisation of local people are there.

One major difference from the Scott Paper era, perhaps is in the greater potential for civil society to monitor and expose negative impacts. While independent foreign journalists still face severe restrictions in accessing Papua and West Papua, communications between Papua and the outside world are patchy but possible thanks to Papuan and other supportive CSO networks acting from inside and outside Papua. This means that critical independent information can get in and out of Papua and local communities’ concerns can be more effectively voiced than in the days of Scott Paper. It then remains for decision-makers to take their messages seriously and start moving from top-down mega-developments to bottom-up sustainable support for communities.

i For more background, see DTE newsletters 1-6, 1989.

ii The international campaign against World Bank funding for the hugely damaging transmigration programme had also got underway in the 1980s. Plans to move hundreds of thousands of poor people from Java, Bali and Madura to the targeted ‘outer islands’ (Kalimantan, Sumatra, Sulawesi, Timor, Papua) were particularly sensitive in Papua as well as Aceh and East Timor, due to the disputed political status of those areas.

iii See DTE 84 and 83.

iv David Adam Stott, ‘Indonesian Colonisation, Resource Plunder and West Papuan Grievances’, The Asia-Pacific Journal Vol 9, Issue 12 No 1, March 21, 2011, The 2010 figures of 1,760,557 (49%) for indigenous Papuans and 1,852,297 (51%) for non-indigenous Papuans, are based on extrapolations of population growth rates for both groups and application of these to the results of the 2010 census. Unlike in 2000, the 2010 census did not provide information on the ethnic and religious composition of Papua and West Papua provinces.

vi See Tapol & DTE press release, August 2010