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They’re killing the Koroway with mercury and precious metals

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This is one of the images which circulated on social media in early 2018, purporting to show a new helicopter landing pad made by illegal gold miners in the remote forests of the Koroway people. Now it appears that mining was already taking place in the area three years ago – Supplied

Jayapura, Jubi – At the start of this year, several photographs showing illegal gold mining in the Koroway lands went viral on social media. The photos show work to build a helicopter landing pad to drop off and pick up mining equipment, believed to be near the head of the Deiram River. The authenticity of these photos can’t yet be confirmed. However, a similar case had previously occurred in the Danowage area three years ago, in 2015 or thereabouts. Our knowledge of that incident comes from the reports of Koroway schoolchildren. They told their teacher about illegal gold mining around Danowage. These schoolchildren had been working for the gold miners.

This article is based on the stories four Koroway schoolchildren told to their teacher in early February 2018. The name of the teacher is being withheld in this article, and the names used for the children who gave evidence are not their real names.

‘Silver Water’
Yakobus told of how he had worked for a gold miner in the Landslide area, to the south of Danowage, 15 minutes away by katingting (a boat with a small motor). As he explained to his teacher, he had worked for straight-haired (a term for migrants from outside Papua) miners, from the Bugis ethnic group. He was given the task of building a base camp, carrying equipment, splitting firewood and other odd-jobs. However Yakobus claimed he had witnessed the whole mining process from start to finish. The person Yakobus was working for was called Koprak.

Yakobus told his teacher that the people who came to mine gold used a water pump, carpet, cloth for straining, pans and also ‘silver water’.

“The silver water is so heavy, even half a jerry can of cooking oil is so heavy, I can’t even pick it up”, said Yakobus.

Yakobus explained in simple language how silver water forms into balls, as if it were from outer space. He compared the weight of the jerry can with a battery from a solar panel system which weighs around 48 kilogrammes.

Obviously when Yakobus said silver water, he was referring to mercury, a heavy metal.

“Did they throw the silver water in the river?”, the teacher tried to make the question clearer, trying to get more information from Yakobus.

Yakobus said no. The illegal miners used the silver water to process more gold.

However the teacher was still not satisfied, and so asked Yakobus to describe how the silver water was used.

Yakobus related how the silver water was used to separate gold from black sand. The method used was to add a little water and silver water to the gold and sand mix and then stir. Then the gold would automatically be separated from the sand, and was kept, while the remaining water and black sand was thrown away. The silver water was poured into a bottle, and then strained through a cloth to filter out the water.

“After that they stored the silver water to use again and threw away the left-over water”, Yakobus said.

Yakobus didn’t know that the left over water which still contains mercury poses a danger to the environment. He went on to say that this water would be thrown anywhere, into the bushes, on the ground, or even into the river.

This practice represents a serious risk to the Koroway people’s livelihood, bearing in mind that the Koroway community depend on the Deiram river for their lifelihood, including transportation, a source of food and a source of clean water.

The miners gave Yakobus 900,000 Rupiah for 12 days work. During those twelve days they were working, the yields had been low. So after 12 days they stopped mining and moved to Yaniruma. The miners asked Yakubus to come with them to Yaniruma, but Yakobus refused saying he wanted to go to church, as it was a Saturday when they asked.

Lazarus’s Circle, Abiowage and Landslide.
Another schoolboy, Imanuel, had a different story. Imanuel was working for another person, called Jimi, who came from Kendari in Sourth-East Sulawesi province. However, Imanuel was not heavily involved, he was only asked to do some odd-jobs.

Imanuel admitted he was not permitted to be directly involved in the gold mining process. However he could confirm that the miners were using silver water. His job was to bring them the silver water and mining equipment.

“I was given 300,000 Rupiah pay for five days work”, said Immanuel.

Imanuel was working in the river to the north of Danowage towards Abiowage. He said that the name of the place the illegal miners were working was Lazarus’s Circle.

“It’s called Lazarus’ Circle because there’s an island in the middle of the river and the owner of that land is called Lazarus”, explained Imanuel.

The third schoolboy to tell his story was Anis. Anis was from Abiowage, and he also worked for Koprak, Yakobus’s former boss. Anis told his teacher that his work was similar to that of Imanuel, general labour, including carrying the silver water.

“Koprak’s mining operation started in Abiowage, but then Koprak split his team in two, and part of the team started working in the Landslide area, the rest in Abiowage”, said Anis. Anis worked for six days and was paid 600,000 Rupiah.

Some other schoolchildren said they were only playing in the mining area, sometimes helping a little or becoming day labourers. One of them is called Tius. He says he was paid 50,000 Rupiah for one day’s work. However, Tius backed up his friend’s statements about the silver water. Another pupil, Nahyu, said that he had only helped to carry equipment and was paid as a day labourer. Asked about their transport, he said they only used boats and katingting, they didn’t have a helicopter.

The scenes witnessed by these Koroway children make the theory that illegal gold mining is taking place in several parts of the Koroway territory, not just in Danowage, seem more plausible.

“In fact we only know about these three locations. It could well be that mining is taking place all along the upper reaches of the Black Deiram river, bearing in mind that this recent mining incident has been revealed as having occurred in the headwaters of the Deiram River”, said the teacher after listening to the schoolchildren’s claims.

The teacher, who is also from the Koroway ethnic group, added that the illegal miners came and met the landowners, asked permission, gave them some money, and enticed them with the idea of great riches. They made a lot of Rupiah by panning the gold belonging to the Koroway people. They even used the Koroway to work stealing the gold that they were the rightful owners of.

“And then the children and other Koroway people who worked for them were only given low wages,” the teacher added.

The Korowai people live in the border areas between five regencies: Boven Digoel, Asmat, Mappi, Yahukimo and the Star Mountains. This ethnic group was discovered by workers from the Sorong branch office of the French oil and gas company PT Conoco in 1982 or thereabouts. The workers were carrying out seismic surveys at the time. At the time, the Koroway could still be classed as a nomadic hunter-gatherer community.

This kind of illegal gold-mining is a common occurrence in Papua, including in Degeuwo, Paniai Regency. Since gold mining started in Degeuwo, many people have arrived from different regions. They arrive using different routes, by air or over land, lured by the promise of gold. However Degeuwo subsequently grew rapidly, becoming a kind of wild west city in the middle of the rainforest. Entrepreneurs and traders tried to build houses as fast as they could, followed by kiosks and cafes. Places of worship were also built. Businesspeople opened nighttime entertainment spots, such as discotheques and billiard halls. Hard liquor started to become rampant. Before long, female sex workers also arrived.

Local people also started to map out the nearby locations as their property. Places for which the ownership had never been an issue became disputed between local people. This came about since each person felt that they could claim ulayat rights (a form of collective customary ownership recognised by Indonesian law) over the land which was formerly forested. Disputes emerged within the local community, and enemies were made.

More often than not agreements are never found to resolve these situations, so slowly Degeuwo is also being “killed” with silver water and gold. (*)

Analysis

Activists fear Indian proposal for coal reserves in Indonesian-ruled Papua

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Forest clearance and plantation development in PT Megakarya Jaya Raya (PT MJR) palm oil concession in Papua. The region is home to the world’s third-largest rainforest, but is facing intense pressure due to the logging, palm oil and mining industries. Image: Ulet Infansasti/Greenpeace

By Febriana Firdaus in Jakarta

As it seeks to diversify its sources of fuel, India is looking to get in on the ground floor of coal mining in previously unexploited deposits in Indonesian-ruled Papua.

In exchange for technical support and financing for geological surveys, officials say India is pushing for special privileges, including no-bid contracts on any resulting concessions a prospect that could run foul of Indonesia’s anti-corruption laws.

The details of an Indian mining project in Papua are still being negotiated, but Indonesia’s energy ministry welcomes the prospect as part of a greater drive to explore energy resources in the country’s easternmost provinces.

In future, the ministry hopes mining for coking coal will support the domestic steel industry, while also bringing economic benefits to locals.

Rights activists, however, fear the launch of a new mining industry could deepen tensions in a region where existing extractive projects have damaged the environment and inflamed a long-running armed conflict.

Indonesia’s new coal frontier

When Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited Jakarta last month, joint efforts to extract and process Indonesia’s fossil fuels, including coal, were on the agenda.

India’s interest in investing in a new coking coal mining concession in Papua can be traced to 2017, when officials from the Central Mine Planning and Design Institute (CMPDI) and Central Institute of Mining and Fuel Research (CIMFR), both Indian government institutes, met with Indonesia’s Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources in Jakarta.

The bilateral plan was announced by then-ministry spokesman Sujatmiko after the first India Indonesia Energy Forum held in Jakarta in April 2017. “The focus is on new territories in Papua,” he said.

To follow up, the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources sent a team to India in early May. The current energy ministry spokesman, Agung Pribadi, who was part of the delegation, told Mongabay that officials from state-owned energy giant Pertamina, major coal miner PT Adaro Energy, and state-owned electricity firm PLN also joined the meeting.

The Indonesian team presented research outlining the potential for mining high-caloric content coal in West Papua province, and lower-caloric coal in Papua province.

According to the team’s report, only 9.3 million tons of reserves have so far been identified. By contrast, Indonesia as a whole expects to export 371 million tons of coal this year. However, the true extent of coal deposits could be larger, said Rita Susilawati, who prepared the report presented during the meeting and is head of coal at the ministry’s Mineral, Coal and Geothermal Resources Centre. “Some areas in Papua are hard to reach due to the lack of infrastructure. We were unable to continue the research,” she explained.

During the visit, Indian and Indonesian officials discussed conducting a geological survey in Papua, Agung said. India would finance the survey using its national budget. With Indonesian President Joko Widodo prioritising infrastructure investment, the energy ministry has few resources to conduct such surveys.

Expected privileges

Indonesia also anticipates benefiting and learning from India’s experience in processing coking coal.

In exchange, India expected privileges from the Indonesian government, including the right to secure the project without a bidding process, Agung said.

Indonesia denied the request, and the talks were put on hold. Approving it would have been too risky, Agung said, since the bidding process is regulated in Indonesia. “We recommend they follow the bidding process or cooperate with a state-owned enterprise,” Agung said.

India’s ministry of coal did not respond to an emailed request for comment.

Energy and mining law expert Bisman Bakhtiar said there was still a chance India could get the rights to develop any resulting coal concessions without having to go through an open bidding process. “It can proceed under the G-to-G (government-to-government) scheme by signing a bilateral agreement,” he said.

This form of agreement would supersede the ministerial regulations requiring competitive bidding, Bisman explained, although he said any such agreements should emphasise that any projects must be carried out according to local laws.

There is precedent in Indonesia for G-to-G schemes bypassing the open bidding process, Bisman said. For example, multiple projects have been carried out on the basis of cooperation agreements with the World Bank and Australia. In another instance, Indonesian media mogul Surya Paloh imported crude oil from Angola via a bilateral cooperation agreement with Angola’s state-owned oil company Sonangol.

Draft law

A draft law currently being discussed in the House of Representatives could also smooth the path for India. It says that if there is agreement between Indonesia and a foreign government to conduct geological studies, the country involved will get priority for the contract.

However, this would still require the country to meet market prices. “We called it ‘right to match.’ If there are other parties who offer lower prices, then they should follow that price,” Bisman said.

Another option would be for India to appoint one of its local companies to work with Indonesian private sector giant Adaro or state-owned coal miner PT Bukit Asam. Such a deal could be conducted as a business-to-business (B-to-B) agreement, and would be legal according to Indonesia’s Energy Law.

Or, Indonesia could assign a state-owned firm like Bukit Asam to work with India based on a memorandum of understanding (MOU) signed by both countries.

“But all these options have a potential risk,” Agung said. “They can be categorised as collusion by the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK).” He said a conventional bidding process should be prioritised.

Bisman said India needed to consider other risks, such as the social and political situation in Papua. The region is home to an armed pro-independence movement and has faced decades of conflict around the world’s largest and most profitable gold and copper mine, Grasberg, owned by US-based Freeport McMoRan.

‘Land grab’

Despite the presence of the mine, Papua remains Indonesia’s poorest province, with some of the worst literacy and infant mortality rates in Asia. Indonesia’s National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM), a state-funded body, has characterised Freeport’s concession as a “land grab,” for which the original stewards of the land, the Amungme and Kamoro indigenous people, were never properly consulted or compensated.

The Indonesian energy ministry’s own research says that any project must take into account the impact on Papua’s indigenous peoples, and must factor in specific local concepts of land ownership, leadership and livelihood.

Franky Samperante, executive director of rights advocacy group Yayasan Pusaka, said he was worried about the plan. “It is way too risky,” he said, pointing to the social and environmental fallout of the Grasberg mine.

“There should be communication between the mining company and indigenous Papuans,” he said, warning Jakarta to carefully calculate the social, environmental and national security impacts.

Local indigenous people need to be meaningfully involved in the decision-making process, he said, especially since the mining would occur in and near forests where indigenous people live and gather and hunt their food. (*)

 

Source: asiapacificreport.nz

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Eliezer Awom passed away, West Papuans drawn in sorrow

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Eliezer Awom. – Jubi/Doc

Jayapura, Jubi – The passing of Eliezer Awom when on the way from Bintuni to Kaimana on Friday (15/6/2018) has left deep sorrow to the land and people of West Papua, in particular, the United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP).

ULMPWP Spokesperson Jacob Rumbiak said the ULMWP express their condolences to the family and the people of West Papua. “His body arrived at his house in Manokwari on 16 June 2018. Most of his children and grandchildren departed from Papua New Guinea and already arrived in Jayapura, except his two children who are still on the way from PNG,” Rumbiak told Jubi on Sunday (17/6/2018).

Eliezer Awom was born on 4 July 1948 in Inasi Village of Numfor Island. His late education was the junior high school before he went to Mobile Brigade training at Deplat Lido Cigombong Bogor, West Java on 29 November 1965.

“His career in Indonesian Military began from 1965 – 1971 to serve at Mobile Brigade Headquarter in Kelapa 2 Jakarta. In 1971, he assigned to Regiment 12 West Irian (Papua), Vocational School of Battalion M Jayapura,” added Rumbiak.

Based on Decree No.17 IRJA Sprint/36/II/1982 issued by Papua Police Chief, continued Rumbiak, he was appointed as the sniper course instructor for Brimobdak Irja from 1981 to 1983. In 1984, he resigned from the Indonesian Army to join the West Papua National Liberation Army/Free Papua Movement (TPN-PN/OPM).

“He served as the Commander of the West Papua National Liberation Army from 1984 to 1988. In 1989, he was shot and arrested by the Indonesian Army and underwent his life sentence in Indonesian Military Detention in Wamena before transferred to Kalisosok Detention Class I in Surabaya, East Java,” said Rumbiak.

Rumbiak further explained that in 2000, the Indonesian Government released him along with other West Papuan political prisoners. From 2002-2018, he served as the Chairman of West Papuan Ex-political Prisoners. “In 2002, he and the late John Simon Mambor represented the West Papuan Ex-political Prisoners as a member of the Papua Presidium Council in the Congress of Papuan People II. Further, in 2011, KRP III declared the Federal State of West Papua Republic (NFRPB) which he was appointed as the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces cum the Minister of Defense until the end of his life.

“On 27 November – 6 December 2014, the name Eliezer Awom was noticed in the list of other greatest West Papuans to declare Saralana Declaration that born the United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP). For his tireless dedication, Mr Awom deserves the Best Guerrilla Star Award along with other heroes who have fought for the independence of West Papua,” he said.

Meanwhile, ULMWP Domestic Affair Working Team Markus Haluk said on Sunday, 17 June 2018, Awom’s brother and oldest son departed to Manokwari to decide whether the funeral would conduct in Manokwari or Jayapura.

“As we all know that the late Mr Awom has devoted his entire life for the independence and political sovereignty of the West Papuans. He became a role model and central figure to all of us. He was a true nationalist and great warrior of the Papuan people. Therefore let us pay him a tribute to conduct three days of national grief upon his funeral,” said Haluk. (*)

 

Reporter: Abeth You

Editor: Pipit Maizier

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Papua’s legislator suspects an intrigue behind foreigners’ deportation

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Papua’s Legislator John Gobai – Jubi / Doc

Nabire, Jubi – Papua’s Legislator John Gobai suspects an intrigue behind deportation of foreigners in Nabire.

The statement followed the arrest of twelve foreign workers by Timika Immigration Authority at the bank of Musairo River, where located in the mining area of PT. Pacific Mining Jaya (PMJ).

According to Gobai, he has raised the issue about foreign workers in Nabire to the Papua Police but no prompt response. Papua Provincial Government gave a permit to PT. PMJ to take a mining sample, but the company conducts a gold mining operation.

Jubi has tried to contact the Head of Immigration Office of Tembagapura, Jesaja Samuel Enock, but no answer from the immigration authority until this news written. Based on the information obtained by Jubi, there are currently 22 foreigners in Nabire. (*)

 

Reporter: Titus Ruban

Editor: Pipit Maizier

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