Thu, 04 Mar 1999

PT Freeport in fresh environmental dispute

JAKARTA (JP): The Irian Jaya legislative body has established a team to investigate environmental damage blamed on the mining operations of PT Freeport Indonesia in Mimika.

The speaker of the legislative body, T.N. Kaiway, told Antara on Wednesday that the inquiry was prompted by a recent rally staged by students grouped in the Environment Lover.

"We already receive environmental reports (from Freeport), but the students' rally caused us to suspect that something wrong must have happened out there," Kaiway said.

During the rally held at the legislative body's office, the students demanded that the government take stern measures against Freeport and the holders of forest cultivation licenses for damaging the environment around their projects.

The students said that the waste from mining activities had damaged hectares of forests and caused rivers to run dry.

"We are heeding the students' protest, but we must verify their claims before we discuss any possible settlements," Kaiway said.

He said he might request the minister of mines, Freeport's management and the provincial authorities to attend a discussion on the charges. No date has been set for the possible meeting.

An Amungme tribal leader, Tom Beanal, had filed in the United States a US$6 billion lawsuit against Freeport for allegedly causing local environmental and cultural destruction in Irian Jaya. He lost the first part of his legal battle against Freeport when a U.S. district court rejected the suit in April last year. (amd)