Subject: Papua Tribe vs Freeport McMoRan Lawsuit Proceeds

The Jakarta Globe October 9, 2009

Papua Tribe Lawsuit on Freeport Proceeds

by Heru Andriyanto

A court showdown between a Papuan tribe and US mining giant Freeport McMoRan resumed on Thursday after negotiations to settle the dispute out of court collapsed, a lawyer said.

The Amungme tribe in Papua filed a lawsuit in a Jakarta court against Freeport McMoRan's local unit, PT Freeport Indonesia, seeking $30 billion in compensation for environmental damage over 40 years of operations on their ancestral lands in the country's easternmost province.

"In the first hearing on Aug. 6, the judge gave us 40 days to reach a mutual settlement through dialogue. But we could not reach an agreement so the lawsuit resumes," Titus Natkime, a lawyer for the tribe, told the Jakarta Globe ahead of the hearing in the South Jakarta District Court.

The lawyer said that on Sept. 15, his team had asked the Securities and Exchange Commission in Washington to suspend the trading of Freeport shares in all markets under the commission's auspices until the civil case was settled.

"We also reported this case to the National Commission for Human Rights," he said.

The lawyer has said that he represented about 90 Amungme tribe members who live in the lowlands of a mountainous area in Papua's Mimika district, where Freeport runs its massive copper and gold mine.

The plaintiffs claim they are the legitimate owners of 2.6 million hectares of land on which the mine is located, and that the 1967 work contract between the government and Freeport was made without their approval.

The tribe has also accused Freeport of illegally evicting indigenous people, with the support of government troops.

The lawsuit is also directed against the government and PT Indocopper Investama, a Bakrie group company, each owning a 9.36 percent stake in PT Freeport Indonesia. The plaintiffs have demanded that the court fine the defendants "$20 billion for environmental damages caused by mining activities and $10 billion for human rights violations."

Freeport has criticized the legal action as lacking credibility.

"Previous lawsuits against Freeport making similar baseless environmental and human rights claims have been dismissed in both Indonesian and United States courts due to the inability of the plaintiffs to present facts to support their allegations," the company said in an e-mail to the Jakarta Globe.

"We have reached several land rights agreements with the Amungme and Kamoro tribes, traditional inhabitants of our area of operations, and these agreements go beyond what is required by law," said Budiman Moerdijat, a spokesman for Freeport.

Freeport said it had established land rights trust funds in 2001 for the Amungme and Kamoro tribes and contributed $27 million to those funds through 2008, with a plan to continue making contributions of $1 million annually.

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