More copper and gold mines for Papua?

Down to Earth No.82, September 2009

At least three Australian mining exploration companies have released information recently about their activities in Papua, raising concerns over the potential for more serious human rights and environmental impacts for the local population and their livelihoods.

The companies are looking for major copper and gold deposits similar to those mined by Freeport-Rio Tinto (see in brief, below).

In May this year, Australian company Hillgrove Resources Ltd announced it had completed a 'socialisation process' to introduce the company's exploration plans to local communities, police and security forces and others in its 181,500 hectares exploration area in Sorong and Manokwari districts in the Bird's Head area of West Papua. The process, which involved company representatives visiting villages along the northern coast of the region, was a necessary step prior to a 'major exploration initiative', according to the company. Hillgrove holds a further exploration licence on the island of Sumba, in East Nusa Tenggara province. The company's local Indonesian partner is PT Akram Resources. 1

A second project, called Aisasjur, to the south of the Hillgrove concession is being explored by Arc Exploration, Ltd. Arc, formerly known as Austindo Resources Corporation NL, was granted an initial 3-year renewable 'KP' licence to explore 9,486 hectares of land in Bintuni Bay district in 2005.

In June this year, it secured two more exploration areas, covering a total of 51,410 ha. More applications are pending. The company has a funding agreement with UK-based mining multinational Anglo American. The permits are held by a company called PT Alam Papua Nusantara. 2

In August, a third company, Nickelore Limited, announced an initial agreement to invest in the exploration of a 91 km² area bordering Freeport-Rio Tinto's mining concession. The 'Papua Gold & Copper Project' consists of 2 licence areas to the northeast of Freeport-Rio Tinto's Grasberg mine. 3