By Ainur Rohmah
Papuans across Indonesia held demonstrations Monday against an American mining giant involved in a contract dispute with the government that has halted operations at the world's second biggest copper mine.
Protest coordinator Samsi Mahmud said hundreds of members of the Indonesian People’s Front for West Papua and the Alliance of Papuan Students held protests in 16 cities, including in front of the Freeport office in Jakarta and the United States consulate in Bali.
"Our demand is only one, Freeport should be closed down and leave Papua," Mahmud said in a statement.
He described the signing of the first contract between the government and Freeport in 1967 as an “illegal act” as the eastern Papua region had been an area of conflict between Indonesia and the Netherlands.
Mahmud, a Front member, accused Freeport of continuing to illegally exploit mines and seizing people's lands.
Locals consider Freeport-McMoRan to be closely linked to the military presence and its operations in the mineral-rich territory since 1967.
"It has caused violence that resulted in misery and suffering to the people of Papua," Mahmud said Monday.
The company’s local subsidiary PT Freeport Indonesia halted operations at its Grasberg mine last month due to a contract dispute in which the government is seeking to convert the contract of work with Freeport into an export permit extension.
The new offer also involves Freeport divesting a 51-percent stake within a decade of production and the government’s role in determining base selling prices for minerals.
Freeport Indonesia has rejected the idea of contract conversion and said it may take the case to international arbitration.
Papua's Energy and Mineral Resources Office recorded that Freeport has laid off more than 2,000 employees -- consisting of foreigners and locals -- who work for its contractor since February.
"Thousands of contract workers have been laid off, they no longer have an income. This could possibly lead to social problems,” the office’s chief, Bangun Manurung, was quoted as saying by metrotvnews.com.