Wed, 29 Mar 2000

Rosy environmental audit of Freeport elicits skepticism

BANDUNG (JP): The environmental audit conducted by Montgomery Watson Indonesia (MWI) on PT Freeport Indonesia's activities in Irian Jaya is academically questionable, a Padjadjaran University researcher said here on Tuesday.

Oekon S. Abdoellah, head of the university Center for Natural Resources and Environment Research, said that MWI did not have supporting data to praise Freeport's environmental protection program.

"MWI concludes the activities are all good, but without supporting data. Some are even totally different from what happened on site," Oekon said during a discussion about Freeport at the Kedaton Hotel in Bandung, West Java.

The event, sponsored by the State Ministry for Environment, involved environmental experts, including Emil Salim.

Montgomery said Freeport was compliant with the existing environmental laws and regulations.

"In general, MWI says that Freeport has consistently implemented all policies on reclamation and protection of flora and fauna in the Lorenzt National Park. But there is no information on the results of the implementation," he said.

The audit reports pertaining to the reclamation along the river and beach where Freeport disposed of 230 tons of waste daily were not comprehensive, he added.

The MWI report did not explain the management of areas affected by the tailings, such as estuaries and mangrove forests, said Oekon.

"Clarification is also needed on the waste handling by Freeport. In one section MWI said that the reclamation on Ajkwa riverside would not be conducted until the mining activities were halted in 2004.

"But, in another section, MWI said that Freeport was committed to reclaiming the Ajkwa riverside gradually, without waiting for the end of the mining activities," he said.

The Secretary to the State Minister of Environment, Sudarsono, reiterated that the ministry would not hesitate to hand down legal and administrative punishment to Freeport if the gold and copper mining company was found guilty of violations.

"We will take stern measures if Freeport violates Law No. 23/1997 on environment and Law No. 39/1999 on human right, that stipulates that every citizen has the right to proper housing and life," he said.

"Are the people living close to the mines run by Freeport disturbed by the mining activities? The ministry will not only review the environmental aspects, but also how far the mining company respects local values," Sudarsono said.

He admitted Freeport's track record in investment was good with the central government.

"But, I don't know if the company has also responded the law No. 25/1999 on regional autonomy, which stipulates that 80 percent of forest and mining royalties must go to the province." (25/sur)