In brief...DTE 82, September 2009

Down to Earth No.82, September 2009

More deaths at Freeport-Rio Tinto mine in Papua

More violence near the Freeport-Rio Tinto copper and gold mine in West Papua resulted in three deaths - two Freeport employees and a police officer - in July. Police arrested seven people: two of them worked at the company's Grasberg mine. More shots were fired at a bus carrying the mine's employees in August, with one incident leaving five people injured.

A report in the Australian newspaper, The Age, blames militia backed by a unit of Indonesia's elite special forces (Kopassus) for the recent attack. It points to a previous attack in 2002, when fatal shootings were linked to the Indonesian military (see DTE 55, and full report on Tapol website

A July statement by Indonesian human rights and environment NGOs and church groups expressed concern at the escalating violence in other parts of Papua, as well as the shootings near the Grasberg mine in Timika district. It called on the armed forces and the government not to make any provocative statements linking the attacks to the West Papuan independence movement (TPN/OPM). At a press conference, the groups said that the many mistakes made over granting a concession to Freeport was the source of the many acts of violence in Timika. On the wider Papua situation, the statement called upon all sides to stop accusing the Papuans of separatism and to seek a solution by means of peaceful dialogue.

Meanwhile, lawyers representing the Amungme people, whose customary lands have been mined by US-based Freeport, have filed a lawsuit against the company in Jakarta claiming USD30 billion in damages to compensate for environmental and human rights violations.

Freeport is continuing to pay for military protection at the mine, despite regulations which are supposed to prevent such payments. In 2008 the company said it paid 'less than USD1.6 million' to provide a monthly allowance to police and soldiers around the mine. This was part of 8 million dollars of 'support costs' for 1,850 police and soldiers protecting Grasberg last year. Past investigations have shown that Freeport paid around USD30 million between 1998 and 2004 to the military and police (see DTE 68 for background).

A new Human Rights Watch report, "What did I do Wrong?" Papuans in Merauke Face Abuses by Indonesian Special Forces" focuses on human rights abuses by Kopassus, in Merauke district, southern Papua. The report underlines the culture of impunity among Indonesia's security forces in the territory. See (Sources: Mineweb 16/Aug/09; Los Angeles Times 7/Aug/09; Kompas 16/Jul/09; press release by Kontras, Papuan NGO Forum, PBHI, Imparsial, Praxis Alliance, Eknas WALHI, JATAM and the Indonesian Council of Churches, 15/Jul/09; AFP 23/Mar/09)

World Bank to assess carbon footprint

The World Bank has announced plans to estimate the carbon footprints of its future projects. Together with other multilateral development banks, the Bank is creating a common method for estimating a project's associated greenhouse gas emissions.

The move fits with the Bank's bid to become the major lender for climate change related projects, including REDD (see also first article).

The Bank's decision follows decades of pressure from non-governmental groups, such as the Environmental Defense Fund and the Bank Information Center, to move its lending away from polluting fossil fuel energy projects, toward renewable energy and energy efficiency.

Last year, research by the Bank Information Center (BIC) showed that lending by the World Bank Group on the extractive industries had actually increased in the year from July 2007 to June 2008.

Among fossil fuel projects, BIC listed several loans by the IFC - the Bank's private sector investment body - to Indonesia. See DTE 78. (Source: WorldWatch Institute, 28/Jul/09 at


Harapan REDD film

A film about the controversial Harapan REDD project in Sumatra documents how local people are excluded and how their livelihoods are threatened by the project. The Harapan project is run by PT Restorasi Ekosistem Indonesia (PT REKI), which consists of a local group Burung Indonesia, the UK's Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) and BirdLife International. See


Aceh forest loss

A study by Greenomics Indonesia has found that more than 200,000 hectares of forest were lost in Aceh during rebuilding efforts following the December 2004 tsunami. Most was illegally felled to supply wood for infrastructure and house construction between 2006-2008. Greenomics said it was the humanitarian mission with the world's fastest deforestation rate and the biggest use of illegal timber. (Jakarta Post 12/Aug/09)


Guguk carbon stocks assessed

A rapid carbon stock assessment of Guguk customary forest in Jambi, Sumatra, found that it contained 261,25 tonnes per hectare. The assessment was done between August 2008 and Feb 2009 by KKI-WARSI. (See

Guguk is one of the case study areas in the AMAN-DTE book Forests for the Future (see

Land grabs website

A website to provide information on the new global trend to outsource food production has been launched by the NG GRAIN at The group says some 20 million hectares is being taken over by foreign investors around the world and that the practice is increasing. (Source:

Merauke in Papua is one area being targeted by Saudi investors. Here, concerns have been raised that indigenous Papuans’ land will be taken and their livelihoods destroyed, to make way for large-scale projects to grow rice and other crops, under ambitious schemes involving roads, ports and irrigation systems. (See DTE 78 for background.)