Amnesty calls for halt to planned Wabu Block gold mine in Papua

Wabu Block gold mine site
Site of the planned Wabu Block gold mine in Intan Jaya, Papua. Image: Indoleft/CNBC

By Yance Agapa in Paniai

Amnesty International Indonesia executive director Usman Hamid is asking the government to halt the planned gold mine at Wabu Block in Intan Jaya regency until there is agreement from the Papua indigenous people in the area.

“We have asked that the planned mine be halted until the state obtains agreement from the Papuan indigenous people,” said Hamid in a press release received by Suara Papua.

From the results of its research, Amnesty said that one of the largest gold reserves identified in Indonesia was located in an area considered to be a hot spot for a series of violent acts by Indonesian security forces against local civilians.

Hamid explained that Papuan indigenous people reported that violence was often committed by security forces along with restrictions on personal and public life such as restrictions of movement and even the use of electronic devices.

“Amnesty International Indonesia is quite relived by the attitude of the Papua governor who has officially asked the central government, in particular the ESDM [Energy and Mineral Resources] Ministry to temporarily hold the planned mining bearing in mind the security situation in Intan Jaya which is not favourable,” he said.

Most of the area, which is inhabited by the Moni (Migani) tribe, is still covered with forest.

According to official estimates, the Wabu Block contains 8.1 million tonnes of gold, making it the fifth largest gold reserve known to exist in Indonesia.

Relieved after meeting
Hamid also said he was relieved after meeting with Coordinating Minister for Security, Politics and Legal Affairs (Menkopolhukam) Mahfud MD in Jakarta.

“We also feel relieved after meeting with the Menkopolhukam who explained that the plan was still being discussed between ministries and would not be implemented for some time”, said Hamid.

Amnesty is concerned over the potential impact of mining in the Wabu Block on human rights, added to by the risk of conflict in the Intan Jaya regency.

“So this special concern is obstacles to holding adequate and meaningful consultation with the Papuan indigenous people who will be impacted upon in order to obtain agreement on initial basic information without coercion in relation to mining in the Wabu Block”, said Hamid.

Amnesty added, “We very much hope that the central government and the Papua provincial government will work together to ensure that the planned mine really does provide sufficient information, consultation and agreement obtained from the Papuan indigenous communities”.

Based on existing data, the Indonesian government has increased the number of security forces in Intan Jaya significantly. Currently there are around 17 security posts in Sugapa district (the Intan Jaya regional capital) when in October 2019 there were only two posts.

This increase has also been accompanied by extrajudicial killings, raids and assaults by military and police, which have created a general climate of violence, intimidation and fear.

A Papuan protest over the Wabu Block plans
A Papuan protest over the Wabu Block plans. Image: AI

Restrictions on lives
Based on reports received by Amnesty, said Hamid, indigenous Papuans in Intan Jaya faced restrictions on their daily activities and many had had to leave their communities in order to find safety in other cities or the forests.

Hamid hopes that the government will pay attention to reports released by human rights organisations in Papua.

“The government must pay attention to human rights reports which are conducted by human rights organisations such as ELSHAM [the Institute for Human Rights Studies and Advocacy] Papua,” he said, bearing in mind the recent situation in which there had been an escalation in conflict.

Earlier, the central government was urged to halt the prolonged conflict in Intan Jaya by the Intan Jaya Papua Traditional Community Rights Advocacy Team (Tivamaipa) in Jakarta.

During an audience with the House of Representatives (DPR), Tivamaipa revealed that the armed conflict in Intan Jaya over the last three years began with the deployment of TNI (Indonesian military) troops which were allegedly tasked with providing security for planned investments in the Wabu Block by Mining and Industry Indonesia (Mind Id) through the company PT Aneka Tambang (Antam).

According to Tivamaipa, on October 5, 2020 Intan Jaya traditional communities declared their opposition to planned exploration in the Wabu Block.

Four demands
In order to avoid a prolonged conflict, the Tivamaipa made four demands:

  1. That the DPR leadership and the leaders of the DPR’s Commission I conduct an evaluation of government policies on handling conflicts in Papua and West Papua provinces involving the Coordinating Minister for Security, Politics and Legal Affairs, the Defense Minister, the Minister for Energy and Mineral Resources (ESDM), the Minister for State Owned Enterprises (BUMN), the TNI commander and the Indonesian police chief.
  2. That the Commission I leadership invite the Papua and West Papua provisional governments, the Papua Regional House of Representatives (DPRP), the Papua People’s Council (MRP), the Papua and West Papua regional police chiefs, the Cenderawasih XVII and Kasuari XVIII regional military commanders, the regional governments of Intan Jaya, the Bintang Highlands, Puncak, Nduga, Yahukimo and Maybrat along with community representatives to attend a joint meeting.
  3. It urged the central government to withdraw all non-organic TNI and police security forces which have been sent to Intan Jaya regency.
  4. That the central and regional government must repatriate internally displaced people from Intan Jaya and return them to their home villages and prioritise security and peace in Intan Jaya by providing social services which are properly organised and sustainable.

Translated by James Balowski for IndoLeft News. The original title of the article was “Usmad Hamid Minta Rencana Tambang Blok Wabu Dihentikan”.

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