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Freeport McMoRan takes exception.

Please allow me to correct false statements about our company contained in your story titled "The Hidden Shame of the Global Industrial Economy," appearing in the January/February 2004 issue of World Watch magazine.

Our mining operation in Papua, Indonesia has never used cyanide in its processes and cyanide is not contained in our mine tailings.

Land for our operations area in Papua was not "seized from the Amungme and Kamoro people." Under the Indonesian Constitution, all unimproved land is legally state-owned land and all minerals belong to the state. Our "January Agreement" of 1974 with the Amungme was the first recognition in Indonesia of hak ulayat, or the right of traditional people to undeveloped land they have used for hunting and gathering. Subsequent to that agreement, thanks to our pioneering effort, the government formally recognized the right to compensation for hak ulayat land rights. Compensation in the form of rekognisi, or recognition, is paid to communities where a release of hak ulayat tights is needed, because hak ulayat is a communal property right. PT Freeport Indonesia, our Indonesian mining affiliate, has paid rekognisi in several instances over the years through programs mutually agreed upon with the affected local Papuans and the government. Over the years, as our operations have grown and the duration of the operations extended, we have even informally renegotiated recognisi for the highland communities. These were major programs involving the provision of significant community facilities and other benefits.

In addition, since 1996 we have provided well over $100 million in funding for social programs to a special fired managed by the local people that carries out a full range of beneficial educational, healthcare, housing and community development programs. We have also reached important agreements with the Amungme and Kamoro peoples, original inhabitants of our area of operations. One concluded in 2001 established a Trust Fund for their communities enabling them to purchase shares in Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold Inc., thereby becoming stakeholders in the mine. A Memorandum of Understanding signed in 2000 with their local community organizations focuses on socioeconomic resources, human rights, land and environmental rights.


Vice President, Communications Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold Inc.

Ed Ayres replies: I regret that the statement "Freeport McMoRan dumps 120,000 tons of cyanide-laced waste into local rivers each day" was wrong. The correct statement, I take it, would be simply that Freeport McMoRan dumps 120,000 tons of mine waste per day. (Your company's annual report says the amount is 125,000 tons.)

I am puzzled, however, by your assertion that land for your operation was "not seized" from the Amungme and Kamoro people became all unimproved land in Indonesia is "state-owned" under the Indonesian Constitution. Did the people whose sacred mountain was destroyed to make this mine agree that it belonged to the state and not to them? If the state seized the land and then your company made a deal with the state, your claim that the company didn't seize it seems to me a bit disingenuous. At least some of the Amungme apparently don't buy your account. Tom Beanal, leader of the Amungme Tribal Council, has been quoted as saying: "Freeport has taken over and occupied our land.... Our environment has been ruined, and our forests and rivers polluted by waste." Beanal also notes that Amungme who protested the mine's operations have been "arrested, beaten and put into containers" [shipping containers used as holding cells] and "tortured, even killed." Maybe that's now all in the past, but Beanal's account of how the land came to be yours seems a far cry from the amicable agreement you describe.
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Title Annotation:From Readers
Author:Collier, William L., III
Publication:World Watch
Article Type:Letter to the Editor
Date:Mar 1, 2004
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