This article from KOMISI, a group of students from Intan Jaya in West Papua (in co-operation with the Suara Papua website), recounts how the Freeport mining company, through its subsidiaries, established exploration activities in remote Intan Jaya regency over twenty years ago with the help of a western missionary. Currently, as local politicians grant permissions for further exploration work without a mandate or the consent of the communities that live there, the students make a clear demand that the company leaves their land, knowing the pattern of conflict that is bound to emerge otherwise.
PAPUAN, Jayapura - Intan Jaya Regency is a new administrative region which split from Paniai Regency in 2008. Until that time, Sugapa, Hitalipa and other areas were still under the administration of Paniai Regency.
The story begins in 1989 - 1990 when several westerners arrived, calling themselves the Survey Team. They were accompanied by a missionary from District Hitalipa, who had been given the friendly nickname of Jani Mala by local people. His real name is John Cutts, a foreigner who was born and raised in Intan Jaya.
They arrived from Timika in an Airfast helicopter, and after arriving at the Kingmi Missionary Post in Hitalpa district, they continued towards the Hiyabu river, not far away.
Once at the river they started taking sand, water and rock samples. Then they continued towards the confluence of the Hiyabu and Dogabu rivers, and then to the confluence of the Wayabu and Wabu rivers and to several streams that joined the Wabu River, taking more samples at each river.
As they passed the Wabu River at Wandoga, John Cutts happened to meet a local resident, Stevanus Sondegau, by a stream known as Wonemiggi. John and his companions continued their journey to the confluence with the Tigabu river, where once again they took samples and panned the sand to look for gold.
At that moment John met with another local resident, known locally as Ojegoa Tawa Mbole Belau or Didimus Belau, from Bilogae village, Sugapa District, who farmed cassava, taro and other plants along the Tigitalipa river. As usual John Cutts spoke in Migani, the local language, and told Didimus what they were doing there.
“ A me,..mepao,..mendaga kaneta taliago kaya, Hitalipagemaya tali ne,..du ne,..homa ne,.. inigiao dia digio,. usua naga ndogo- Timika ge inua noa nggaga inuapa dutima dia diggiyo,.data kapage go wabu ge dega-dega data homeyo pialiggiyo dipage go Timika puapaya” John Cutts said to Didimus in Migani, which means “I'm accompanying these people to collect water, rock and sand samples from Hitalipa to look at in the laboratory in Timika. From here we will continue to follow the upper reaches of the Wabu river then to Homeyo District and then we will go to Timika”. John Cutts, the man who the local people always addressed as Jani Mala, continued with the survey team towards Homeyo District.
Several months later, on 28th September 1991, John Cutts made a second visit to Sugapa, Intan Jaya as a representative of PT Freeport Indonesia. His aim was to meet with the head of the Sugapa district and tribal chiefs to inform them that PT Freeport would start operations in Sugapa district and several other districts in Intan Jaya.
That meeting, which took place in the Sugapa district office, was attended by Hombore BA, the district head at the time, the members of the Tripika (local representatives of government, police and military), together with community leaders who hold the customary land rights, who all came and listened to what John Cutts had to say.
Migani community leaders that were present in that meeting included Paulus Japugau, Yuliu Sani, Adolof Belau, Oktopianus Sondegau, Samuel Japugau, Andreas Tipagau, and Bony Sondegau amongst others. They were confused when they heard John Cutts' explanations, and didn't understand why he wanted to carry out this exploration (Survey) on their land. They went straight home without agreeing to anything or being in agreement with John Cutts' wishes to start surveying their land.
John Cutts took advantage of the Intan Jaya people's limited knowledge and lack of experience to introduce Freeport to the area on its own terms, without any agreement to co-operate or Memorandum of Understanding with customary land rights holders. Although no such agreement had been made, John Cutts nevertheless imposed his wishes, bringing PT Freeport to Sugapa and other locations in Intan Jaya.
The way John Cutts gave PT Freeport the opportunity to carry out exploration activities in Sugapa, Hitalipa and other areas of Intan Jaya is an example of daylight robbery. The people had no option but to accept what little they could at that time, so they made the non-written suggestion to PT Freeport, that they would allow them to go ahead with their explorations. However as compensation for the trees that PT Freeport cut for their helipad, drillpad, material pad etc. they must take on local people to work for the company, explained a reliable source who is a customary landowner in that village.
In this way several local youth accepted jobs from PT Freeport in Sugapa, but they met with many obstacles. They didn't know what they had to do. Each mornng at 4.30 am they had to have tools and materials ready to build the basecamp and clear the land, while other workers went up and down to where the helipad, drillpad, materialpad and landing site would be built in the forest. Day after day, week after week and month after month, the wages the local workers received was very small indeed.
The helicopter which had been hired for the exploration made endless trips to Timika to bring food for the local workers in Sugapa. As exploration activities took hold in Sugapa, the Freeport manager took on the police and military who were assigned to Sugapa district to maintain security at the site.
The company needed building materials to build the camp and so requested that local people provide boards and wood, with the promise that they would be paid 15,000 Rupiah for thin planks, 10,000 Rupiah for large pieces of wood, and 5000 rupiah for medium sized pieces of wood.
When they heard that the people prepared the materials the company required. However the people were sadly not paid as had previously been agreed with PT Freeport, but had to renegotiate for a lower price. The people protested at this transaction, but were confronted with the police and army.
Whenever anyone protested, the police and military stationed there would deal with the problem; if anyone claimed they should be paid the price the company had proposed, the police and military would hit that person without hesitation until their face was black and blue. After one man, Linus Sondegau, was beaten in this way, a mass fight broke out between police and army and the local workers.
On seeing this, local people felt powerless to make any further protest against PT Freeport's deception in Sugapa. Meanwhile John Cutts had since disappeared, after bringing these people who knew no pity. Local workers just took all this while remaining outwardly calm, because they were not really ready to become labourers. Many local people who were accepted into the hoist team fell from the helicopter, because they were not equipped with sufficient knowledge of safety at work.
Several local workers fell from the helicopter holding the rope to attach it, for example one worker who was caught in the trees on the side of Mount Wabu-Sugapa. No-one came to his help but fortunately the helicopter released the rope. The worker, called Didimus Japugai was caught in the branches of a tree. Local people's crops were damaged by the downdraught from the helicopter as it landed with its cargo of tools for the company's. The owners of the land asked to be paid for the damage done to ther crops by Freeport's helicopter, but nothing could be done because the process was handed over to local police and military. So the people had to gracefully accept this injustice.
Exploration took place in vital places for the local people's livelihood, such as their hunting grounds, the places they would find wood or rattan, and the land they cultivated. The Sugapa-Bilagae base-camp was tightly guarded by police and military who forbade the people to roam around the base-camp both day and night. Once two or three pigs from Bilogae villagers were killed by guards without letting the village chief know beforehand. The guards then asked for half of the meat, in exchange for the bullets they had lost they said, and like-it-or-not the pigs' owners had to once again gracefully accept, afraid of being beaten or shot by the security forces.
At night the people from the Bilogae (Wabu) base camp would take advantage of their situation and bring underage girls and even several married women from the village for sex. Local workers were encouraged to gamble and other negative actvities. When a local worker wanted to visit a sick family member they were told go to work or be fired, that's how the workers were treated at the time.
PT Freeport, using PT Minersave as it's vehicle, felt at liberty to explore the land, forests and rivers of Wabu, Intan Jaya as if it was land that belonged to nobody. Compensation for the flora and fauna has still not been paid to the holders of customary rights over this land until the present day
As a result, PT Freeport destroyed the natural environment which protected the people's animals and plants, and so all who lived there evacuated to places where it was possible to live better and more peacefully.
That is the story of how PT Freeport, by means of PT Minersave, was able to enter Intan Jaya regency and assume that the natural environment of Intan Jaya was without an owner, leaving it free to explore just as it pleased.
Recommendation letter not legitimate
The recommendation letter below was issued by the caretaker leader (Bupati) of Intan Jaya Regency Maximus Zonggonau and the head of Intan Jaya People's Representative Council Herenius Sondegau without co-ordination, discussion or input from Intan Jaya's indigenous people.
Recommendation letter number: 65/REK/BUP./IJ/2012 states “based on the Director of PT IRJA EASTERN MINERALS letter Number IM/08/II/2012 dated 16th February 2012, the Bupati of Intan Jaya hereby grants its recommendation to PT. IRJA EASTERN MINERALS to make use of the protected forest of Intan Jaya regency for exploration activities. In the course of carrying out these activities it is intended that all valid regulations are obeyed, especially to protect the environment in the conservation forest.” Such laws had never been obeyed by any of the exploration and exploitation activities carried out in Sugapa during the years before this note was written.
The Elected Bupati and vice-Bupati of Intan Jaya Regency, Natalis Tabuni, Ss, Msi and Fr. Yan Kobogayau, Sth, M Div have stated that they are “able to develop and unearth Intan Jaya's natural potential”. Natalis Tabuni's statement to journalists which was reported in rthe print and eletronic media Bintang Papua and Papua Pos Nabire is a unilateral claim because the population of Intan Jaya in general depends on the natural environment and rivers such as Wabu, Kemabu,Mbiabu for their livelihoods, and the location of Intan Jaya is extremely unsuitable for a mining company's operations.
Most people in Intan Jaya live along the aforementioned rivers. If a mining company manages to force its way in, the mine waste would clearly be disposed of in Intan Jaya's rivers. Meaning that water, land, the environment and the people would all be affected by this chemical waste which will result in the slow but sure extinction of local ethnic groups.
PT Freeport, which through PT Minersave has been operating in Wabu Sugapa Intan Jaya in recent years, and is still active in the area, is what has become of John Cutts' strategy of taking advantage of the local people's limited understanding.
PT Freeport commenced operations on 28th September 1991, but until the present day customary land rights holders have not granted their agreement to co-operate. Until today people are still seeking redress for the damage to the flora and fauna, especially for the pollution of water resources and illegal logging.
The people are asking for PT Freeport to be stopped, because the company has not made agreements with community leaders, indigenous leaders, church leaders, women leaders, youth leaders or intellectuals and students from the Moni people who inhabit the land between Mbulu-Mbulu and Anepone-Sanepone.
The people of Intan Jaya are in general agreement and spread the word from church to church, from village to village and in every district of Intan Jaya to stop the mining company on their territory. So, whoever it is that is that is letting the mining company force its way into Intan Jaya, whether for exploration or exploitation, should stop right now. If any permissions have been given they should be immediately revoked, because it constitutes an attempt to kill and wipe out the people of Intan Jaya, whether directly or indirectly.
People will be killed directly as a result of the security operations around the mining area, keeping indigenous people out so they cannot disturb mining, which will surely end up with people being imprisoned and killed, as well as provoking wars between tribes and clans who will end up killing one another as the riches of nature that indigenous people can access disappear into nothing. [translator's note: all of this already happens on a regular basis around Freeport's existing mine near Timika.]
Indirect killing comes neatly packaged, structured and planned and is divided up between government, NGOs and churches, alongside the effects of alcohol, HIV/AIDS and chemical waste polluting Intan Jaya's rivers.
We often read in the print and electronic media about protracted conflicts caused by mining. The evidence shows there is a high risk of conflict in mining areas the world over. These conflicts are deliberately created by people with vested interests in the natural riches belonging to the indigenous people, but once they start it is difficult for anyone to stop the conflict.
Statement of Opinion
As residents and students of Intan Jaya Regency involved in the Somatua Intan Jaya Independent Community of Students (Komunitas Mahasiswa Independen Somatua Intan Jaya (KOMISI)), we wish to emphatically state that:
Firstly, as we have seen, read and heard, mining the world over results in conflict. Therefore we strongly reject the irresponsible and inhumane attempts that are being made to allow a mining company to operate.
Secondly, we do not want mining companies to carry out exploration or exploitation in ant part of the territory of Intan Jaya either now or at any time to come, because that will mean that indigenous people will be wiped out from Intan Jaya.
Thirdly, if a mining company is going to force its way into Intan Jaya, it would be better if we, the people of Intan Jaya and students in KOMISI, were to all be killed straight away.
This statement has been prepared so that those with a vested interest in Intan Jaya regency will take no further action. We have only one objective, and that is that the people of Intan Jaya can be saved from the threats of large-scale foreign investment that bring no real benefits to the local people.
*This piece was published as a collaboration between KOMISI and Suara Papua editors.