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Created before Nov 2016
Last update: 2015-11-01 14:53:10 BankTrack
Leen Schmücker FairFin, Belgium
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About Grasberg gold and copper mine
The Grasberg mine, located in the indonesian province of Papua, on the island New Guinea, just north of Australia, is being run by the mining company Freeport McMoran. The Grasberg mine is the biggest goldmine and the third biggest coppermine in the world.
New Guinea is known for its biologically diverse ecosystems and endemic species but it also has great cultural value. In the western part of the island, in the Indonesian province Papua, 1.5 million of the 2.5 million people are indigenous peoples speaking more than 250 different languages.
But the area is not only known for its cultural and natural wonders. It is also one of the last places on earth where companies still use a very controversial mining technique; the 'riverine tailings disposal'. This technique, which involves dumping toxic rubble in riversystems, is used by Freeport McMoran at the Grasberg mine.
What must happen
Friends of the earth Indonesia (Wahli) recommends in its latest report 'The environmental impacts of Freeport-Rio Tinto's Copper and Gold Mining Operation in Papua' the following to the Indonesian government:
"Immediately enforce national environmental law. This should be done by halting Freeport-Rio Tinto operations until breaches are remedied, and prosecuting legal breaches which continue today despite warnings in the early 2000s. In particular:
- Dissolved copper and suspended solids (TSS) entering the Ajkwa Estuary must not breach water quality limits for class II of the Water Quality Regulations (2001).
- Acid Rock Drainage must be immediately prevented from entering into surface and ground waters at levels which breach water quality limits for heavy metals and acidity class II of the Water Quality Regulations (2001).
- Undertake its own thorough and regular sampling, instead of relying on company reports, and make all environmental information public according to the Environment Law (1997).
- Re-examine tax and royalty arrangements to improve benefits for affected communities, Papua province, and compensate for environmental damage created so far.
- Establish an Independent Panel to define several scenarios for the future of the Freeport mine, including closure date, processing, and waste management, then to commission a detailed, independent, social and technical review of these scenarios. The review should be used as the basis of an informed discussion by local people and other stakeholders on the future of the mine."
For more detailed information see also the report 'bank secrets' by Netwerk Vlaanderen.
Social and human rights impacts
Freeport has also been criticised for the murder and torture of indigenous people living in the vicinity of the mine at the hands of soldiers and police bribed by the company.
Environmental and climate impacts
"The rivers running through the lowlands that constitute the deposition area have been described as one of the most biodiverse habitats in the world. This ecosystem is now completely destroyed”, writes the Indonesian environment ministry.
The Grasberg mine is one of the most polluting mines in the world. Every day, Freeport dumps 230,000 tonnes of polluted rubble in the Aghawagon river. This is equivalent to 3.25 billion tonnes over the total lifetime of the mine. The waste contains heavy metals such as copper, arsenic, cadmium and mercury, killing off life in the river. It is now almost impossible for the local population to use the river for fishing or drinking water.
The large quantities of sediment that remain on the river banks are also affecting the rainforests. 230 km2 of rainforest will be destroyed over the lifetime of the mine.
On October 1st, 2008 Deutsche Bank downgraded Freeport-McMoRan from Buy to Hold.