Why Indonesia won’t give up West Papua so easily

The Indonesian government, it seems, does not give up quite so easily.

In 1967 the Indonesian government under General Suharto granted mining rights to the Freeport McMoran mining company from the United States to exploit copper reserves in Mt. Carstenz. This happened even though West Papua was not under Indonesian jurisdiction at that time. Freeport’s Mt. Ertsberg mine is the second largest copper mine in the world, with copper and gold reserves estimated to be worth more than US$40 billion. Freeport pays huge amounts of taxes to the Indonesian government. Between 1992 and 2009, the company paid US$9.2 billion to the Indonesian government. In 2009 alone, the amount paid was no less than US$1.4 billion. Other mining companies operating include CRA of Australia.

There are 34.6 million hectares of forest in West Papua. Of these, the Indonesian government categorized 27.6 million hectares as production forests, to the delight of large-scale logging companies. Giant logging companies from Indonesia and overseas have converged on West Papua as part of Indonesia’s “Go East” policy.

Between two and five million hectares of forest land have also been marked for conversion into palm oil plantations. In 2005 there were only five operational palm oil plantations in West papua. By the end of 2014 this had increased dramatically to 21. Another 20 concessions were planned for 2015 and 2016. More than 2.6 million hectares of land would be utilised if all these plantations became operational. Most of this land are forest areas and ancestral lands of indigenous peoples. Indonesia is today the world largest producer of palm oil. The Salim group, one of the largest conglomerates in Indonesia, has stakes in four palm oil concessions in West Papua.

The region has for many years produced significant amounts of oil for Anglo/Dutch firm Shell, amongst others, even before Indonesia took over the region. Oil production continues in West Papua until today. Some of the world’s largest oil companies operate in West Papua, including Enron, Texaco and Total.

These are just some of the reasons why the Indonesian government refuses to give up West Papua. It has massacred more than 500,000 West Papuans since it took over the region in order to hold on its vast mineral and natural resources.

This is part of the initial draft of an article I am writing regarding the West Papuan movement for self determination and liberation. 

(Photo from popularresistance.org)